Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Mahmoud AhmadinejadIsrael News Photo: (file)
Israeli experts disagree on whether the Jewish state is better off with Mahmoud Ahmadinjad as Iran’s president, or with his challenger Mir-Hossein Mousavi. While Mousavi is seen as more moderate than the incumbent, many experts think this actually makes him a greater threat – because the danger he poses is harder to see.

Mossad director Meir Dagan told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee last week that "if the reformist candidate Mousavi had won, Israel would have had a more serious problem because it would need to explain to the world the danger of the Iranian threat." 

Ahmadinejad as Diplomatic Asset

As prime minister in the late 1980s, Mousavi was among the initiators of Iran’s military nuclear program, explained veteran analyst Ron Ben-Yishai in a recent article on the Hebrew language website Ynet. “He was the one who began the clandestine program for acquisition of know-how and equipment for nuclear weapons production from Pakistani scientist Abd-el Kadr Khan.” In addition, Mousavi made it clear on the eve of the recent elections that he would continue Iran’s nuclear program as President, meaning that his election probably would not cause Iran to give up its military nuclear ambition.

Ahmadinejad, on the other hand, is “a diplomatic asset for the West in general and for Israel in particular. His Shi’ite fanaticism and Holocaust denial have frightened Arab and Western countries and assisted in creation of a global anti-Iranian front,” Ben-Yishai added.

Ephraim Inbar, director of the Begin Sadat Center at Bar-Ilan University, agrees. "Just because Mousavi is called a moderate or a reformist doesn't mean he's a nice guy. After all, he was approved by the Islamic leadership," he is quoted as saying by CBS News. "If we have Ahmadinejad, we know where we stand. If we have Mousavi we have a serpent with a nice image."

"Mousavi and Ahmadinejad are from the same school, and we have already seen Mousavi as an enemy of Israel supporting terrorist groups," said Menashe Amir, who hosts Voice of Israel Radio's daily Persian language news show, which is very popular in Iran. "Mousavi declared during the television debates that he will not change the nuclear policy and that he won't stop Iranian support to the Palestinians."

Peres Thinks Otherwise

President Shimon Peres, on the other hand, thinks that a regime change in Iran may come quicker than an end to the country's nuclear program. "You never know what will disappear in Iran first – their enriched uranium or their poor government," Peres said in a speech before the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem. "I hope their poor government will disappear first."

The Iranian nation, said Peres, “is trying to bring its own image back to its culture. Let the youth shout louder for freedom and a positive policy,” he said. “Let the women – a particularly courageous group – give voice to their thirst for equality.”

Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-born Israeli who co-authored a book on Ahmadinejad, "The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran," is closer to Peres’s view than to Dagan’s. Javedanfar acknowledged that Ahmadinejad may serve Israel better in the short-term information war, but said in the longer term, Mousavi and his allies could change Iran’s foreign policy and make it less confrontational.

"The reformists are for more human rights inside Iran, and for a reduction in tension with… other countries in the region," he said.