On Tuesday, February 26th: Former Israeli Minister of Energy and Infrastructure Gonen Segev was sentenced to 11 years in prison after admitting to spying for Iran in January. According to Al Jazeera, he pled guilty to intentionally sharing information to an enemy nation with the intent to harm Israel. Segev, who served as the energy minister for Israel from 1995 to 1996, had been recruited to spy for Iran while working as a physician in Nigeria. The Shin Bet internal security of Israel discovered that Segev had been in contact with the Iranian Embassy in Nigeria back in 2012, added to his multiple visits to Iran to meet with his handlers. This is only another addition to Segev’s long record. In 2004, he was charged with smuggling ecstasy from the Netherlands. As a result, his license to practice medicine in Israel was revoked, prompting him to immediately move to Nigeria following his release
The Shin Bet further elaborated on the charges, concluding that Gonen Segev was allegedly given a classified communications system to send coded messages and passed on “information related to the energy sector, security sites in Israel and officials in political and security institutions”. Conversely, Segev had argued that his collaboration with Iranian officials was actually for the benefit of the Israeli people, arguing that he, “…wanted to fool the Iranians and come back to Israel a hero,” he was quoted as saying during his interrogation. However, this allegation was quickly put down by investigators.
This recent move by Iran is just another addition to the enormous list of aggressions made by the state. Especially considering Iran’s increased presence in the Golan Heights last year, it is becoming increasingly clear that more armed conflict between the two is imminent. With Syria serving as a medium for the two to even more passively come at odds, it falls upon the international community to more aggressively denounce any sort of proxy violence between the two states. We must also realize the urgency in this conflict. Considering nuclear ambitions in the region, Israel and Iran have solid backing from both the United States and Russia, respectively, a conflict here can easily have a global impact. This both justifies and necessitates intentional and intense negotiations that need to be a higher priority amongst world leaders.
According to the BBC, Israel has long been locked in a shadow war with Iran, which supports armed groups in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon. Following the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and the entrance of religious hardliners, Iran’s leaders have called for Israel’s elimination, rejecting the latter’s right to exist. Furthermore, Iran has denounced Israel as an illegitimate occupier of Muslim land. Subsequently, Israel views Iran as a threat and actively opposes them from gaining any nuclear weapons. Since the onset of war in Syria, Israel has adamantly stayed out of fighting between the rebels and the regime, while Iran has bolstered the current government, offering troops and advisers. According to the BBC, the relationship between the two is further intensified by the fact that Iran has backed groups targeting Israel, including Hezbollah and Hamas.
While the sentencing of Gonen Segev seems like a trivial incident, it points to a larger, more looming reality: violence between Israel and Iran is not so much a matter of if, but a matter of when it will occur. Instead of being reactive, it falls upon allies of the two nations to take a more proactive approach and to further push the two at the point of better negotiation. Hopefully, these efforts will eventually usher in peace and stability in a time where it is long overdue.
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