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Israel-Iran Strife: 5 Key Moments in Troubled Relationship

Thursday, 28 Aug 2014 05:12 PM

By Morgan Chilson

The strife between Israel and Iran traces back to the mid-1900s and beyond, in a conflict that can’t be simplified to a fight over territorial rights.

Take a look at these significant events that occurred during the decades of discord and fighting:

1948 – The United Nations stepped into escalating tensions between Jewish immigrants and Palestinians, separating the territory into two countries that would become Israel and Palestine.

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The relationship between Israel and Iran was relatively peaceful for several decades after that. Iran sold oil to Israel and numerous trade relationships were maintained.

1979/80 – In 1979, an Iranian revolution launched a discord between the two countries although the countries continued to trade and many Iranians worked in Israel. The 1980 invasion of Iran by Iraq increased trade between the two as Iran looked to Israel for supplies like weapons and munitions.

But then in the mid-1980s, things deteriorated further when Iran trained Lebanon’s Hezbollah in its fight against Israel and also encouraged Israeli attacks from Gaza and the West Bank.

Late 1980s to early 1990s – As Iran and Iraq declared a ceasefire and the Soviet Union fell apart, Iran and Israel drifted further apart in ideologies and relationships.

"The Islamic Republic’s interests shifted to seducing Arab and Muslim public opinion, which meant an even harder line toward the Jewish state," says an "Iran Primer" maintained by the United States Institute of Peace. "Iran’s real-politik hostility toward Israel was reinforced by ideological and obsessive enmity. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the most visible purveyor of anti-Semitic notions, but such beliefs have circulated among Iran’s leadership since the revolution.”

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– Tensions escalated, driven higher when Iran’s leader in 2005 denied the Holocaust. In 2006, when Hezbollah guerrillas seized two soldiers from an Israeli patrol along the border, the Israeli government believed Iran was behind the act. A 34-day war ensued, and an Israeli ship was almost sunk by an Iranian cruise missile and Hezbollah fired rockets supplied by Iran into northern Israel.

Now – At various world events, including a security conference in Munich in February, leaders of Iran and Israel seemed in indicate a softening of attitudes against each other, The Guardian reported in an article titled "Why Can’t Iran and Israel Be Friends?"

“While these speculations are premature and flirt with wishful thinking, it makes geostrategic sense for the two adversaries to set aside their mutual hostility to address common concerns in the Middle East,” the Guardian wrote.

And yet, just this week, Iran said that it will supply arms to Palestinians after Israel reportedly shot down a drone, an indication that decades of complexity in the relationship between the two countries will not be easily solved.

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