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Netanyahu Hopes Iran’s Leader Will Shift Policy Toward Israel

May 27, 1997
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this week he hoped the election of a relative moderate in Iran’s presidential elections would bring a “positive development” for Israel.

But Netanyahu stressed that it was still too early to draw conclusions about the implications of the Iranian elections, and he added that he was awaiting assessments from intelligence analysts.

Diplomatic sources said Israel is still waiting to see if Saturday’s surprise election victory of Mohammad Khatami would mean a change in Iranian policy towards Jerusalem.

They noted that Khatami’s victory in the presidential vote was largely a protest against continuing economic hardships in Iran, and they said it was possible he would focus on a domestic agenda.

The sources, quoted by the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, said that any significant change in foreign policy would require the backing of Iran’s spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, who is known for his hostility toward Israel.

David Menashri, a Tel Aviv University expert on Iran, said the primary positive result of the election would be that if Khatami is serious about improving the economic situation, Tehran will have to become more open towards the West.

Uri Lubrani, Israel’s coordinator of policy toward Lebanon and a former ambassador to Iran, said Khatami’s victory shows that the ideological fires of the Islamic Revolution have ebbed somewhat.

Lubrani told Army Radio that Khatami’s victory gave him a sense of some relief.

“This is a protest, primarily on the part of youth and women, against the regime,” he said.

But Lubrani added that Khameini is still the main decision-maker in Tehran.

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