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.
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.