Foreign Policy Blogs

Former Bibi and Ahmadinejad Advisers Square Off on CNN

A debate this week on CNN between Naftali Bennett, former chief of staff to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Hooman Majd, a former adviser to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, included no new talking points or information.

But it was certainly remarkable nonetheless.

As evidence by a major narrative in the news cycle for last several years, Israel and Iran remain arch-nemesis. Iran, like many countries in the Muslim world, refuses to recognize Israel and does not have official ties with the Jewish state.

Instead, Iranian officials regularly cite the need to “wipe” the “Zionist regime” off the map and call for its immediate destruction, all the while building warheads and allegedly perfecting uranium enrichment capabilities to build nuclear missiles. All that’s beside Iran’s funneling of weapons to Hamas and Hezbollah to use against Israel, coupled with Iran’s attempted execution of Israelis abroad through recruiting terror cells in Azerbaijan, India, and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Israel has pulled out all stops in its lobby campaign to inflict crippling sanctions on the Iranian regime and secure a military strike. Israel has reportedly sought a host of technologies, including bunker-buster bombs and mid-air refueling planes, and has made Iran the central focus to last week’s meeting between Netanyahu and President Obama. Many members of Congress are on Israel’s side and are pressuring the Obama administration to green-light a strike on Iran before the country completes development of nuclear weapons.

Iranian and Israeli officials have refused to meet and even participate in the same events. Iran’s soccer team has even refused to compete against teams with any Israelis on the roster — pulling out of a match with Serbia because the coach is an Israeli national.

With that backdrop, the participation of two former senior advisers to the Israeli and Iranian heads of state in the same interview, sitting-by-side, certainly raises eyebrows. The rhetoric and accusations stayed the same, but this interview marks quite a milestone for being conducted so publicly.



Ben Moscovitch

Ben Moscovitch is a Washington D.C.-based political reporter and has covered Congress, homeland security, and health care. He completed an intensive two-year Master's in Middle Eastern History program at Tel Aviv University, where he wrote his thesis on the roots of Palestinian democratic reforms. Ben graduated from Georgetown University with a BA in English Literature. He currently resides in Washington, D.C. Twitter follow: @benmoscovitch

Areas of Focus:
Middle East; Israel-Palestine; Politics


Great Decisions Discussion group