Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says Iran, Israel on 'collision course'
Like no other moment in the past, recent events in Iran has clearly stated its opposition to a Zionist state and not the Israeli people. The following article devotes time and prose to state that relations are on the way to a collision. However, the indirect stand of the Supreme Leader Khamenei on the comments made by a Vice President in charge of Tourism clarifies the matter. The Minister Esfandiar Rahim Mashai stated "Iranians were friends with Israelis". These comments were also backed by President Ahmadinejad.
Iran's supreme leader brushes aside recent peaceful overtures by top Iranian officials to Israeli citizens with statements that could inflame tensions about a potential conflict. By Ramin Mostaghim and Borzou Daragahi, September 19, 2008. TEHRAN -- Iran's highest authority lashed out against Israel today with some of his harshest comments about the Jewish state in recent memory. Supreme leader Ali Khamenei, the black-turbaned ayatollah who is Iran's top political and military figure, said that Iran's hostility to Israel extended to the Israeli people, as well as the government, brushing aside recent peaceful overtures by top Iranian officials to ordinary people in the Jewish state. Khamenei said Iran and Israel were on a "collision course," a statement that could increase tensions in a Middle East already fearful of a conflict breaking out between the countries. "Who are Israelis?" Khamenei told thousands of worshipers gathered for Friday prayers in downtown Tehran. "They are responsible for usurping houses, territory, farmlands and business. They are combatants at the disposal of Zionist operatives. A Muslim nation cannot remain indifferent vis-à-vis such people who are stooges at the service of the arch-foes of the Muslim world." Iran and Israel are locked in a war of words. Israel accuses Iran of seeking nuclear weapons under the guise of a peaceful energy program and supporting anti-Israeli militant groups in Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories. Iran's leaders have repeatedly called for the destruction of the Jewish state, which they consider a Western colonial outpost. The comments came amid a storm of controversy in Iran surrounding remarks attributed to an Iranian official close to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, a vice president in charge of tourism, reportedly said in a July interview that Iranians were friends with the Israeli people, despite the conflict between the governments. Today, Iran is friends with the American and Israeli people," he said in July, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency. "No nation in the world is our enemy." Hard-liners close to the government pounced on Mashaei's remarks. But on Thursday night, Ahmadinejad appeared to back up his deputy and voiced sympathy for Israeli people, even as he predicted Israel's demise. "The Iranian nation never recognized Israel and will never ever recognize it," he said in a news conference. "But we feel pity for those who have been deceived or smuggled into Israel to be oppressed citizens in Israel." But just days before Ahmadinejad is scheduled to arrive in New York for the opening of a United Nations General Assembly session that will likely take up the issue of Iran's nuclear ambitions, Khamenei today left little doubt about Iran's position on the matter, saying he was raising the issue of Israel "to spell an end to any debates" about the matter. "It is incorrect, irrational, pointless and nonsense to say that we are friend of Israeli people," said Khamenei, who delivers prayer sermons rarely only on special occasions. Iranian officials typically ramp up anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian rhetoric in the week before the last Muslim Sabbath in the holy month of Ramadan, which is called Jerusalem Day in Iran and will fall on Sept. 26. Khamenei said Iran has no problem with Judaism or other religions. "But we are on a collision course with the occupiers of Palestine and the occupiers are the Zionist regime," he said. "This is the position of our regime, our revolution and our people." He said there was no use extending an "olive branch" to Israelis, since they are the ones oppressing Palestinians. "The fake Zionist government has armed the same Israeli people in order to keep Palestinians from approaching their outposts," he said.