Defense Minister Moshe Boogie Yaalon (L) meets with US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in Munich. (Photo: Ariel Hermoni/Flash 90). Defense Minister Moshe Boogie Yaalon (L) meets with US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in Munich. (Photo: Ariel Hermoni/Flash 90).
israeli defense minister attends iranian presentation

Moshe Ya’alon, Israel’s defense minister, astonished observers by attending a presentation given by the Iranian delegate at the Munich Security Conference last weekend.

By remaining in his seat during Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s address at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday, Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Ya’alon has made a statement.

As Time Magazine points out, many in Israel interpreted Ya’alon’s action as a diplomatic opening between the Jewish state and the Islamic Republic.

“In September, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, stood up and marched out of the General Assembly as Iran’s celebrated new president, Hassan Rouhani, arrived to make his address. On Sunday, Prosor stayed in his seat along with the Defense Minister, the proudly hawkish Moshe “Bugie” Ya’alon,” Time reports.

No matter what the reasoning, what is clear is that Ya’alon’s move – or, rather, his lack of a move – was done purposely. Only four months ago, Times of Israel reports, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “ordered Israel’s delegation to the United Nations to walk out during the speech by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to the General Assembly. ‘When Iran’s leaders stop denying the Holocaust of the Jewish people, stop calling for the destruction of the Jewish state and recognize Israel’s right to exist, the Israeli delegation will attend their addresses at the General Assembly,’ Netanyahu said at the time.”

ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER ATTENDS IRANIAN PRESENTATION, SITS IN FRONT ROW

Ya’alon was sitting in the front row for the Iranian presentation. As noted by media outlets, he had wanted to hear Zarif’s speech firsthand.

In Munich, Zarif continued to pledge good intentions regarding Iran’s nuclear program following the deal signed in November with the Six Global Powers.

“This is the Iranian regime. We shouldn’t delude ourselves … we should watch very carefully how this regime is going to manipulate, to deceive,” Ya’alon told the press.

Meir Javendafar, a Tehran-born expert on Iranian politics, comments on his blog, The Iran-Israel Observer:

“In my opinion, there is almost zero chance that Defense Minister Ya’alon would have stayed for the Zarif panel if he had been told otherwise by his boss, Benjamin Netanyahu.”

“Does this signal a complete shift in Netanyahu’s Iran policy? Unlikely,” Javendafar continues. “However, I believe that it does signal a small positive step forward in order to test the waters. To see how the Iranian side reacts in the future. Israel wins no matter what. If Iran reacts positively, then it would show that moderation and goodwill work. If Iran [does] not react or continues with its rhetoric against Israel, then Israel could say that it is the other side that does not want to change, no matter what. This would strengthen Israel’s case against Iran’s nuclear program.”

“Iran came to the table because of economic pressure,” Ya’alon stated. “One way or another, Iran’s military nuclear program must be stopped.”

Date: Feb. 4, 2014