Although sovereignty over Jerusalem has always been a precondition demand by the Palestinians in their negotiations with Israel based on the claim of it being a Muslim holy site, Iran’s supreme leader recently addressed a group of Palestinian leaders in Tehran, emphasizing the true goal of their struggle: to see a Palestinian flag over the “holy city” of Tel Aviv.
At a conference for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in Tehran, the host, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, addressed the group on Monday. The PIJ is considered to be a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union.
“Palestine will strongly persist, and by the grace of God, the Palestinian nation’s ultimate victory will come true in the near future,” the ayatollah was quoted as saying in the Tehran Times. “As for the recent years, the victory of the Palestinian people has not meant being able to establish a government in Tel Aviv — of course that will come true by God’s help.”
The Ayatollah went on to describe the conflicts between Hamas and Israel as victories for the Palestinians despite these conflicts leading to significant death and suffering for the Gazans.
“During the two last wars against the Resistance groups, the Zionist regime begged for a ceasefire after 22 days in one case and after 8 days in another instance; in the most recent conflict, the Zionist regime asked for a ceasefire after only 48 hours”, the Ayatollah said. “This means the Zionist Regime has been brought to its knees”
“However, the main victory has been the fact that the Zionist regime — which Arab armies failed to defeat — was brought to its knees by the Palestinian people and the resistance; and by God’s will, you will achieve greater victories. These forces will never make us abandon our divine, sacred and rational responsibility,” Khamenei insisted
Ziad al-Nakhala, who became PIJ’s leader in late September, responded warmly to Khameini’s statements.
“[The] people of Gaza are standing up to the Zionist Regime and the so-called Deal of the Century plot,” al-Nakhala was quoted in the media as saying. Al-Nakhala also stated that the ultimate goal of the Palestinians is Tel Aviv.
“Today, the abilities and power of the Islamic resistance in Palestine is stronger than ever, hence if war breaks out, Tel Aviv and all other cities and settlements of the Zionist regime will be within the reach of thousands of missiles of the Resistance,” he threatened.
Rabbi Ken Spiro, a historian and Senior Lecturer and Researcher for Aish HaTorah Yeshiva, emphasized that the Ayatollah was speaking in an honest and forthright manner never used with Westerners.
“Jerusalem is the standard negotiating point to present the illusion of compromise, presenting the possibility of two-states for two people,” Rabbi Spiro told Breaking Israel News. “The Tel Aviv statement is just the Iranians being open and honest that there is no compromise and no room for a Jewish state of any size.”
Rabbi Spiro described how Yasser Arafat expressed support for the Oslo Accords when addressing Westerners but when speaking to his own people in Arabic, he compared the agreement with Israel to the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah which the Prophet Mohammed signed, promising not to go to war with Mecca. Two years after signing the treaty, Mohammed entered the city with an army of followers, conquering the city in direct contravention to the treaty he had signed. By making the comparison, Arafat let them know that the Oslo Accords were a temporary means to and end and not meant as a long-term peace treaty.
“Arafat intended his signing to be a short-term tactic to weaken Israel and get territory with the aim of ultimately getting everything,” Spiro said. “The Arab world is feeding the West an illusion that they are working for the Palestinian people and their statehood. The reality is that the Palestinians are just the smokescreen hiding the real agenda which is against the state of Israel. This has always been the only issue; the Arab inability to accept any state of Israel of any size, no matter what the borders.”
Rabbi Spiro noted that unlike many Arab nations, the Iranian agenda is clearly expressed.
“There is no subterfuge here,” Rabbi Spiro explained. “The Iranians openly call for the destruction of Israel.”
Although Tel Aviv is secular in nature (despite the fact it houses hundreds of synagogues) and has no religious significance for either Judaism or Islam, Spiro argued that in a general sense the city is part of a larger religious issue for Iran and the Palestinians.
“The conflict is religious and theological in the sense that a Jewish state in the Mideast is inherently antithetical to the Islamic worldview, which states that the whole world is supposed to come under Muslim rule,” Spiro explained. “All of Israel was under Islamic rule for 1,300 years until Israel was established. Now, infidel Jews rule over formerly Muslim-controlled territory and ‘rule’ over Muslims; the Israeli-Arabs or Palestinians living in the territories. In this respect, Jewish Tel Aviv is just as problematic religiously for Iran and much of the Islamic world as is Jewish Jerusalem. They are both unacceptable from an Islamic point of view.”
Prof. Joshua Teitelbaum of the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at Bar-Ilan University, understood the Ayatollah as speaking in general terms.
“The main point he is trying to make is that ‘Tel Aviv’ is a metaphor for the full removal of the Israeli state, whereas Jerusalem is just one city in the West Bank,” Professor Teitelbaum told Breaking Israel News. “In the Ayatollah Khamenei’s mind, Jerusalem is important but it is a given. It isn’t a major achievement. The real prize is Tel Aviv which is a metaphor for the total destruction of Israel, which is the real goal.”
“While the mainstream Palestinian leadership has officially accepted the existence of the state of Israel in the Declaration of Principles, and has expressed a desire for a capital in Jerusalem (understood to mean East Jerusalem), those who oppose the existence of Israel, like Hamas and Iran, claim Tel Aviv as well. So, here Khamenei is saying that the Palestinians achieved a small victory in the recent fighting with Israel, but not the final victory that is needed, which is the destruction of Israel. I think his listeners understand this.”
The professor explained that in the context of the Middle East, it is impossible to differentiate between the religiously significant city of Jerusalem and the secular city of Tel Aviv.
“I don’t think the Iranians distinguish between religious claims and political or territorial claims in their conflict with Israel. This is true for Islam but it is also true on the Jewish side of the equation. Separating the religious from the political in this part of the world is artificial. It is a non-Western thing that some people from outside the region have difficulty understanding.”