Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expressed concern that two of his nation’s prominent politicians had the audacity to express a desire to have positive relations with Jews although disagreeing with Jewish leaders. The controversy was sparked when Vice President Esfandiar Rahim Mashal said Iranians were friends of all people in the world, including Israelis. Some hard line politicians condemned the rhetoric of friendship as antithetical to the aspirations of Iran’s religious leadership. They were furious because President Ahmadinejad, who is disliked by Israelis, refused to fire the vice president. On Thursday, the Iranian president stood next to his vice president and said his nation did not have any problem with people, but was careful to avoid expressing any support for friendship with Israelis.
Supreme Leader Khamenei, who wields real power in Iran, made clear it was incorrect to hold out the hand of friendship to Israelis. “That it is said we are friends of the Israel people… is incorrect and illogical. The people of Israel are the same who are occupying houses, territories and farms of Palestinians.”
President Ahmadinejad apparently was attempting to establish a distinction between the government of Israel and its people, but even such nuanced tones is too much for the religious leaders who inhabit a world of mental reflections, not the world of active engagement in the affairs of humanity.