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Israeli foreign policy towards Iran 1948-1979: beyond the realist account

Shaoulian-Sopher, Efrat (2017) Israeli foreign policy towards Iran 1948-1979: beyond the realist account. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.yed4p11hz4ka


Israeli foreign policy towards Iran in the period 1948-1979 has been generally explained through the Realist perspective, claiming that Israeli relations with Iran were established and developed due to converging strategic interests and common threats. This thesis argues that the existing literature does not fully appreciate the role that individuals, especially with their perceptions and misperceptions and human agency played in the formation and implementation of Israeli foreign policy. By not fully appreciating the role of human agency, the existing literature on Israeli relations with Iran has not fully explored the methods that made Israel’s foreign policy with Iran a success. For instance, the existing accounts do not examine how the actions of specific Israeli diplomats in Tehran such as Ambassador Meir Ezri prevented attempts from groups in Iran such as the Iranian Foreign Ministry and certain religious clerics to stop Israeli-Iranian relations. For three decades, the relationship between Israel and Iran, though discreet and often kept secret, flourished within the context of the Cold War and the rise of Pan Arabism. Many covert joint operations yielded widespread collaboration in the areas of trade, civilian technology, oil, agriculture, and extensive military intelligence collaboration on areas such as Yemen, Iraq and the Kurds. That changed with a shift in Israeli personnel in 1973, and ended completely after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. If Israeli-Iranian relations did solely stem from converging strategic interests, relations would have been more likely to survive the 1979 Revolution. Rather, the Israelis’ change in personnel in Tehran, their relationships with the Iranians, and their perceptions of world events greatly influenced the 1973 and 1979 shifts. This thesis concludes that any analysis of Israeli foreign policy formation and implementation towards Iran must include the multidimensional role of decision-makers, diplomats, and other foreign policy actors in order to complete the analysis presented by the existing Realist-leaning accounts. The thesis bases its argument on extensive International Relations-based examination of Israeli diplomatic history. Analysis of the role of prime ministers and diplomats such as David Ben Gurion, Tzvi Doriel and Meir Ezri; including their perceptions and misperceptions and human agency—forges a new understanding of Israeli foreign policy towards Iran from 1948 to 1979. Through the use of personal interviews, memoirs in Hebrew, English and Farsi, recently de-classified documents from the Israel State Archives, and unseen documents from private family collections, this thesis presents an argument that addresses the gaps in the existing literature.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2017 Efrat Shaoulian-Sopher
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
Sets: Departments > International Relations
Supervisor: Dalacoura, Katerina and Aran, Amnon

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