Fear and Insecurity
Israel and the Iran Threat Narrative
Why is Israel’s former ally Iran now perceived as the country’s greatest threat?
To observers of the Iran-Israel conflict, its vitriolic rhetoric might suggest an ancient hatred between Jews and Muslims–a biblical feud dating back hundreds, or thousands, of years. But this rivalry is a far more modern development.
In this authoritative study, Jonathan G. Leslie examines the origins of the conflict. Drawing on extensive archival and open-source research, he concludes that–despite the animosity surrounding the Iran-Israel relationship–the twenty-first century’s hostilities are not inevitable consequences of these nations’ history, nor of contemporary political events. The intensification of tensions has been largely the product of one nation’s efforts, with Israel viewing Iran as a far greater danger than Iran does Israel. Using a novel theoretical approach considering the power of narrative within historical context, Leslie outlines how Israel’s leaders successfully reimagined their erstwhile ally Iran as an existential threat. Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took this further, employing populist strategies in an attempt to rewrite history, depict Iran as a global menace, and recruit allies against the JCPOA nuclear deal.
Fear and Insecurity provides important new insights into the history of the Iran-Israel conflict, and offers fresh prospects for defusing the tensions threatening both global and regional security.
‘A compelling analysis of the construction of the Israeli narrative on Iran.’ — International Affairs
‘Leslie’s study underscores the essential irrationality of Israeli foreign policy as well as the towering influence of Netanyahu, who must now be accounted one of the most significant—and pernicious—figures in Israel’s political history.’ — Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
‘Leslie convincingly demonstrates that words have consequences and that these can be profound… [his] focus on the power of discourse, which he skillfully dissects, is a most refreshing perspective.’ — Informed Comment
‘This is the authoritative account of Israeli-Iranian relations. Everyone remotely interested in this pivotal region needs to read this book and to recommend it further.’ — Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, author of What is Iran?
‘Fear and Insecurity offers a formidable thesis revolving around the enduring power of the Iran threat narrative, a perception that has long been manipulated by populist leaders in Israel. This is a timely addition and a great contribution to explain the lingering–albeit constructed–tensions in Israeli-Iranian relations.’ — Mahmood Monshipouri, author of In the Shadow of Mistrust: The Geopolitics and Diplomacy of US–Iran Relations
‘An original contribution to the scholarly literature on the topic, Leslie excellently explains how the art of enemy-making has succeeded in creating today’s animosity in the Iran-Israel conflict.’ — Nader Entessar, Professor Emeritus, Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice, University of South Alabama
Jonathan G. Leslie is a consultant and adjunct professor at the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University, Washington, DC. He received his PhD from SOAS University of London, and holds degrees from Princeton University and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.