Son of Iran’s last shah arrives in Israel to push for ‘peaceful, prosperous future’

Reza Pahlavi taking part in Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations, talking water tech and the future renewal of ties

Reza Pahlavi attends the official Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem on April 17, 2023. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
Reza Pahlavi attends the official Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem on April 17, 2023. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

The son of the Western-backed Iranian ruler overthrown in the Islamic Revolution arrived in Israel on Monday for a trip being billed as an effort to rebuild relations between the nations.

“We are very happy to be here and are dedicated to working toward the peaceful and prosperous future that the people of our region deserve,” Reza Pahlavi wrote on Twitter, after arriving in Israel with his wife.

“From the children of Cyrus, to the children of Israel, we will build this future together, in friendship.”

Pahlavi was greeted at Ben Gurion International Airport outside Tel Aviv by Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel, who is hosting him while in Israel.

“Together, we will renew the ties between our nations, for the future generations,” Gamliel said.

Pahlavi later took part in the official ceremony for Holocaust Memorial Day at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.

“As author Elie Wiesel said, without memory there is no hope,” Pahlavi tweeted.

Ahead of his arrival, Pahlavi said his visit will focus on Israeli water technology and renewing ties.

“The Iranian and Jewish people have ancient bonds dating back to Cyrus the Great and Queen Esther,” Pahlavi said in a statement Sunday, referring respectively to the Persian king who allowed the Jews to return to Zion from exile in the sixth century BCE and the Jewish heroine of the Purim story.

“As the children of Cyrus, the Iranian people aspire to have a government that honors his legacy of upholding human rights and respecting religious and cultural diversity, including through the restoration of peaceful and friendly relations with Israel and Iran’s other neighbors in the region,” he added.

Israel and Iran maintained close ties — particularly on energy and security — during the reign of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was overthrown in a popular 1979 uprising led by Islamist clerics.

The two countries have since become bitter enemies, with Iranian leaders regularly calling for the Jewish state’s destruction and backing armed groups committed to this goal.

Israel has sought to isolate Iran internationally and works to counter Iran’s military efforts and nuclear program and has carried out attacks in Syria and elsewhere on Iranian-linked targets.

Pahlavi left Iran at age 17 for military flight school in the US, just before his cancer-stricken father Mohammad Reza Pahlavi abandoned the throne for exile.

Pahlavi, who still resides in the US, has called for a peaceful revolution that would replace clerical rule with a parliamentary monarchy, enshrine human rights and modernize its state-run economy.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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