Israel ‘would ultimately like to see regime change in Iran,’ says envoy Erdan

Comments by ambassador to US and UN represent some of most far-reaching made by an Israeli official in favor of overthrowing the ayatollahs’ regime

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan speaks to a group of American Jewish community leaders in New York, on June 27, 2021. (Shahar Azran)
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan speaks to a group of American Jewish community leaders in New York, on June 27, 2021. (Shahar Azran)

NEW YORK — Israel’s Ambassador to the US and UN Gilad Erdan said that Jerusalem would ultimately like to see Iran’s ayatollahs overthrown, in one of the most far-reaching comments by an Israeli official in favor of regime change in Tehran.

“In the end, we would ultimately like to see [the government] overthrown and [for there to be] regime change and Iran,” Erdan told Army Radio on Thursday, when asked about Israel’s strategy vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman declined to comment on whether Erdan’s remarks represent the official position of the Israeli government.

Until now, Israel has avoided publicly calling for regime change in Iran, instead focusing on rallying the international community to impose crippling sanctions against Tehran to stop its nuclear program and its support for terror groups across the region.

Israel has also at times carried out military and espionage operations designed to curtail Tehran’s atomic drive and targetted Iranian military personnel and proxies throughout the region.

Jerusalem has also highlighted the recent election of Ebrahim Raisi as president of the Islamic Republic, which Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Friday “points to the even more extremist and fundamentalist direction that Iran is taking.” Raisi signed off on the executions of thousands of dissidents during his time as deputy prosecutor of Tehran in the 1980s.

In the Army Radio interview, Erdan acknowledged that it is not an Israeli interest for the country to be seen as the only one acting against Iran. He said his role as ambassador is to build the legitimacy for imposing ever-toughening sanctions against Iran in addition to wielding a military threat against the regime.

President Ebrahim Raisi, center, waves to journalists as he is surrounded by group of lawmakers after taking his oath as president at the parliament in Tehran, Iran, on Thursday, August 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

“We would like to see actions that are much more determined from the international community against Iran,” he said, admitting a degree of frustration with the perceived slow nature of the global response to Iranian aggression.

“We hope the international community will draw this conclusion as soon as possible because we need to put an end to this murderousness,” Erdan added.

On Tuesday, Erdan called on the Security Council to condemn and sanction Iran in the wake of last week’s deadly drone attack on a ship with ties to Israel off the coast of Oman.

The drone attack last Thursday targeted the MT Mercer Street, a tanker managed by a UK-based company owned by prominent Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer. A British security guard and a Romanian crew member were killed when drones slammed into the vessel off the coast of Oman. Israel, the US, the UK and Romania have all pegged Iran as responsible.

In a positive sign for Israel, the Group of Seven leading industrialized countries on Friday jointly condemned last week’s attack on the tanker and said evidence indicated Iran was behind the incident.

“We condemn the unlawful attack committed on a merchant vessel,” the foreign ministers of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States of America said in a joint statement.

In this image provided by Maxar Technologies, the oil tanker Mercer Street is seen off the coast of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. (Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies via AP)

“This was a deliberate and targeted attack, and a clear violation of international law,” they added. “All available evidence clearly points to Iran. There is no justification for this attack.”

On Friday, the Security Council was holding an emergency closed-door session to discuss the matter.

Erdan was appointed ambassador to the US and UN during the previous government in 2020. He will stay on as UN envoy, but will be replaced as ambassador to the US by former brigadier general Michael Herzog, who could be confirmed by the cabinet as early as Sunday, according to a coalition source close to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

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