In a December 23, 2018 interview with the French weekly Le Point, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that no Iranian leader had ever threatened to destroy Israel. When the interviewer responded by quoting a statement made by former Iranian president Ahmadinejad at the UN against Israel, Zarif replied that Ahmadinejad had merely been quoting the founder of the Islamic Revolution regime, Ruhollah Khomeini. Ahmadinejad, he added, had not threatened Israel but only meant to say that "Israel would eventually disappear if it continued its present policy."[i]
Zarif's claim is a blatant lie. The various Iranian regime governments have consistently and explicitly presented the destruction of Israel as an ideological and practical goal of the Islamic Revolution regime.[ii]
Mohammad Javad Zarif (image: Lepoint.fr)
Statements By Iranian Leader Khamenei On The Need To Destroy Israel
It should be mentioned that statements by Iranian officials about the need to destroy Israel did not end with Ahmadinejad's presidency. Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei periodically posts to this effect on his various websites and social media accounts, such as the following tweet, from June 2018:
A report focusing on recent statements by top Iranian officials regarding the need to destroy Israel will be published soon.
Below is a comprehensive report published by MEMRI in September 2018 elaborating Iran's policy with regard to the destruction of Israel.
Israel's Eradication – An Ideological And Practical Goal Of Iran's Islamic Revolution Regime
Since its establishment in 1979, the regime of the Islamic Revolution in Iran has made the eradication of Israel the focus of its ideology, expressing and emphasizing it openly in declarations. However, this aspiration has never been confined to declarations. The Islamic revolutionary regime has invested tremendous, years-long, yet indirect military efforts towards actualizing it. These efforts have included, inter alia, providing ongoing funding and weapons to Hizbullah, training it as a fighting force and equipping it with over 120,000 missiles for use against Israel;  and helping Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad by providing funding, training, and weapons, including missiles – and on occasion having them operate in accordance with Iran's needs.
The Islamic revolutionary regime likewise works to maximize the indoctrination and mobilization of the Iranian public towards this goal. For example, the last Friday of Ramadan is designated "Qods [Jerusalem] Day," both inside and outside Iran; the event is marked by emphasizing the goal of eradicating Israel, on the ideological and the practical levels, in conferences, marches, and other public events.
This report will focus on both the ideological aspect and the declarative aspect – i.e. in statements by regime spokesmen – of the Islamic revolutionary regime's firm intent to eradicate the State of Israel.
Khamenei On The Eradication Of Israel Either By Referendum Or By Military Means
The vast majority of Iranian regime spokesmen's declarations of the intent to eradicate Israel – from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to the lowest level – have focused on doing so by military means via the resistance movements, with Iranian support. However, on occasion, following Western pressure, this blunt and straightforward version of the goal of eliminating Israel is refined into a more sophisticated version, the main thrust of which is eliminating Israel as a state by means of an ostensibly democratic vote by those referred to by Khamenei as "the true Palestinians" – all Palestinians, Christians and Muslims alike, both inside and outside Israel, as well as Israeli Jews who were present in British Mandatory Palestine prior to 1948. Various expressions of the concept of eliminating Israel via referendum emerged as early as the first years of the 2000s, as did declarations regarding a straightforward military elimination of Israel.
Following his June 3, 2018 declaration that Israel must be "removed and eradicated," Khamenei reiterated the "democratic" version of achieving the goal – apparently due to European and Western pressure. Subsequently, on June 15, 2018, for Eid Al-Fitr, Khamenei said in a speech to Iranian regime officials and ambassadors from Islamic countries in Iran: "The problem of the Zionist regime is that it is illegitimate, and that it is a regime based on a lie. It will certainly will be destroyed by the success of God and the effort of the Muslim peoples... I again emphasize the need for a referendum among the true Palestinians, including the Muslims, Christians, and Jews, and for assembling the regime in Palestine according to this referendum. Such a referendum, and the assembly of a regime in Palestine according to the Palestinian voices, means, in essence, the destruction of the false Zionist regime. This will come true, without a doubt, in the not-so-distant future; by eradicating the Zionist regime, the Islamic ummah will attain its unity and its honor."
Additional calls by Khamenei for Israel's destruction in recent months have included a June 3, 2018 tweet stating: "Our stance against Israel is the same stance we have always taken. #Israel is a malignant cancerous tumor in the West Asian region that has to be removed and eradicated: it is possible and it will happen. 7/31/91 #GreatReturnMarch."
Three days later, on June 9, Khamenei tweeted: "As constantly stated, #Palestine is 'From the River to the Sea'; From Jordan river to Mediterranean Sea; this is Palestine & #ALQuds is irrefutably its capital. 1/16/18 #Muslims will resist, won't allow fulfillment of enemies' vicious plots, esp regarding AL-Quds. 12/19/00"
At the same time, on Qods Day, June 8, 2018, the deputy commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Hossein Salami, presented in full the military version of the elimination of Israel (see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7554, IRGC Deputy Commander Salami On Qods Day 2018: 'We Are Creating Might In Lebanon – Because We Want To Fight The Enemy From There With All Our Strength, June 5, 2018).
Iranian Regime Officials On Destroying Israel – 2017-2018
In Khamenei's perception, as it appears on his website in English, the goal is the eradication of Israel. However, until a referendum on the complete elimination of Israel can be held, military resistance must be used. On February 21, 2017, at the Sixth International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Intifada, Khamenei said: "From the beginning, this cancerous tumor has been developing in several phases until it turned into the current disaster. The cure for this tumor should be developed in phases as well. Until today, several intifadas and a constant and continuous resistance have managed to achieve very important phased goals. The Palestinian intifada continues to gallop forward in a thunderous manner so that it can achieve its other goals until the complete liberation of Palestine...
"The dangers originating from the presence of the Zionist regime should never be ignored! Therefore, the Resistance should benefit from all the necessary tools for continuing its duty. On this path, all regional nations and governments and all freedom seekers in the world should meet the main needs of this resistant nation... We are with every group that is steadfast on this path and every group that abandons this path has drifted away from us."
In advance of Qods Day in Iran, on June 8, 2018, senior officials from across the Iranian political spectrum expressed their views on the need to radicate Israel:
Basij Deputy Commander Gen. Mohammad Hossein Sepehr said at a June 2 conference honoring Iranian athletes who refused to participate in a sports event with Israeli athletes: "Khamenei said that the Zionist regime will not exist in another 25 years. With God's help, we promise to destroy Israel."
Guardian Council secretary Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati said on June 5: "I am officially announcing that Israel's life has reached its end. Soon we will celebrate the destruction of this [Israeli] regime in Palestine, so that we will be able to purge the Muslims' first qibla [direction of prayer, a reference to Jerusalem] of them. Participating in a [Qods Day] march is a duty for all Muslims. The minimum mission we can carry out is participating in a Qods Day march [in order to] announce to the oppressed Palestinian people that they can be certain that we are with them and support them."
Basij commander Gholam-Hossein Gheib Parvar said at a June 8 Qods Day march in Tehran: "Our aspiration and the aspiration of every freedom-seeking country is the destruction of the Zionist regime."
Expediency Council member Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei also said at the Tehran Qods Day march on June 8: "All Muslims, in Iran and worldwide, feel a responsibility to support the Palestinian people, and hope to see the destruction of Israel with their own eyes soon... Certainly, with effort and persistence, this event [i.e. the destruction of Israel within the next 25 years] can happen sooner."
Iranian President Hassan Rohani said on June 7, 2018: "I expect all our dear people of Iran to send this message... to the tyrannical Zionist regime: The Iranians have not forgotten Palestine and Jerusalem, and the liberation of Jerusalem remains the sacred aspiration of the Iranian people and of all Muslims, [as demonstrated by] their participation in the great Qods Day march. The day is not far off when the honorable Palestinian people will return to its home and the Muslims will be able to worship in Jerusalem, their first qibla."
Also on June 7, the IRGC invited the people to show up enthusiastically en masse for this year's Qods Day: "The only strategy that is helpful and accepted in the matter of the Palestinian cause is the strategy of 'Palestine from the river to the sea,' the Palestinians' return to their homeland, the holding of free elections, and the [Palestinians'] determination of the destiny of the state [of Palestine] as they will it."
Ayatollah Jafar Sobhani said on June 7: "Israel is a cancerous tumor that for over 70 years has occupied the first qibla of the Muslims. The Imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah] Khomeini called the last Friday of Ramadan Qods Day, and created a great plan for the eradiction of this false regime."
Iranian Regime Officials On Destroying Israel – From Previous Years
As noted, the policy of Israel's destruction is a central tenet of the Islamic regime's ideology, and it has been expressed consistently since the founding of the regime. The following are some examples of such expressions, from previous MEMRI reports:
- Special Dispatch No .6349, Iran Launches Long-Range Missiles Emblazoned With Slogan: 'Israel Should Be Wiped Off The Face Of The Earth', March 16, 2016.
- On September 9, 2015, Khamenei said: "The Zionist regime is an illegitimate and false regime. Let me say something about the Zionist regime. After the nuclear talks were over, I heard that the Zionists in occupied Palestine had said: 'In the meantime, thanks to the results of the talks, we will have 25 years of quiet regarding the problem of Iran. After 25 years, we will think of something.' I respond to them by saying: 'First of all, in 25 years you will not be alive.'" He added: "God willing, in 25 years there will be no such thing as the Zionist regime in the region, and secondly, during this period, the fighting Islamic spirit will not give the Zionists even a single day of serenity..." Special Dispatch No. 6156, Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei: 'In 25 Years There Will Be No Such Thing As The Zionist Regime In The Region'; America Is Worse Than Satan, September 9, 2015.
- See also statements by Iranian officials in MEMRI Daily Brief No. 1146, From The Mediterranean to the Golan, Iran Builds Active Front And Direct Military Presence On Israel's Border To Deter Israel And Further Ideology Of Eliminating The Zionist Regime, February 16, 2015, under V. The Iranian Front In The Golan - Implementing Iranian Ideological Perception Regarding Need To Eliminate Israel: Mehdi Taeb, head of Khamenei's "Ammar Headquarters" think tank and the brother of IRGC intelligence chief Hossein Taeb, said in a November 12, 2014 speech in Qom that "Iran's sword is currently stuck in the throat of the accursed Israeli regime, and according to the instructions of the founder of the Islamic Republic [Ayatollah Ruhollah] Khomeini, we must remove this oppressive regime from the world map... The Imam Khomeini saw the Basij [as a force] that would destroy the Zionist regime, and today, thanks to divine grace, Iran has besieged Israel with those same popular forces." On August 27, 2014, IRGC Deputy Commander Hossein Salami said: "Destroying the Zionist regime is a very simple matter... [It] will take place gradually. It is a matter of divine faith, [it is] more than a mere wish for us." On November 26, 2014, Basij Commander Mohammad Reza Naqdi said: "The Iranian nation and Basij members are determined to hold victory prayers led by their Imam [Khamenei] at the Al-Aqsa Mosque." The next day, IRGC navy official Ali Razmjou said that the Zionist regime "will be eliminated from the world map in the near future thanks to the resistance of Basij and Hizbullah members throughout the world."
- Special Dispatch No. 5848, Iranian Media Reports Deleted Following Publication (1): Senior IRGC Official Speaking On Iran's Military Involvement In Syria Says Iran Has Established 'Second Hizbullah' There, September 24, 2014.
- Inquiry & Analysis No. 1108, Iran's New Strategy Of Diversion: Persuading The Sunni Camp To Fight Israel, Not Iran, July 31, 2014.
- Special Dispatch No. 5808, Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei Calls For The Annihilation Of Israel, July 28, 2014.
- On July 26, 2014, on his Facebook page (Facebook.com/www.Khamenei.ir), Khamenei called for the elimination of Israel, in a post titled "Why Should & How Can Israel Be Eliminated? Ayatollah Khamenei's Answer To 9 Key Questions About The Elimination Of #Israel." Below is the message on Khamenei's Facebook page and an enlarged image of the message.
- Special Dispatch No. 5906, Iranian Regime Escalates Threats To Annihilate Israel, December 17, 2014.
- Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1107 - Qods Day In Iran: Tehran Calls For Annihilation Of Israel And For Arming The West Bank, July 25, 2014: On July 23, 2014, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called for the annihilation of Israel, twice stressing the need for arming the West Bank. He claimed that he was not talking about the annihilation of the Jews in the region, but only about the annihilation of the Zionist regime: ""These crimes [of Israel in Gaza] defy imagination. They are the essence of [Israel's] wolf-like and child-killer regime, for which the only solution is its annihilation and liquidation. Of course, until that time [when this happens], the determined and armed Palestinian resistance, and its spread to the West Bank, are the only way to deal with that bestial regime... As the Imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah] Khomeini said, Israel must be liquidated. [But] the annihilation of Israel as the only way to a real solution does not mean the annihilation of the Jews in the region. In order [to carry out] this logical operation [of annihilating Israel] there is a practical apparatus that the Islamic Republic [of Iran] is presenting to the international community. Based on this apparatus, which is acceptable to the nations [of the world], people living in the region, and belonging to it, will be polled to find out what regime they prefer. In this way, the occupying and forged regime [of Israel] will be annihilated. Of course, until that heartless and child-killer regime is destroyed, the forceful struggle, and determined and armed resistance, are the [only] path to solving [the problem of] this destructive regime..."
- Special Dispatch No. 5802, Iranian Reactions To The War In Gaza: Israel's Destruction Imminent; Israel Attacks Due To Arab World's Silence, We Have Supplied Gaza Resistance With Drones And Fajr 5 Missiles, July 21, 2014.
- Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1006, Iranian Qods Day 2013: The Uprising In The Arab World Is Islamic, Aimed Against The U.S. And Israel; 'Israel Cannot Last', August 7, 2013.
- Special Dispatch No. 5226, Former Iranian Official: The Countdown To Attacking Israel Has Begun – 'With Hopes Of Completely Eradicating [It] From The Planet', March 8, 2013.
- Special Dispatch No. 5166, Iran Calls For Third Intifada At Conference Honoring Gaza, February 3, 2013.
- Special Dispatch No. 4893, This Year's Qods Day In Iran: Israel's Elimination Is Imminent – And More Possible Than Ever Before, August 17, 2012.
- In an April 2, 2012 article titled "Iran Must Attack Israel by 2014", Alireza Forghani, a staunch supporter of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the former governor of Kish Province, wrote that attacking Israel was a religious duty and that Iran could destroy it within 9 minutes. See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 793, In Response to Escalating Threats between West and Iran, Iranian Official Calls On Regime To Attack Israel, February 7, 2012.
[i] Lepoint.fr, December 23, 2018.
[ii] Zarif's statement is untrue even with regard to Ahmadinejad himself. See MEMRI reports: Special Dispatch No. 1013 - Iranian President at Tehran Conference: 'Very Soon, This Stain of Disgrace [i.e. Israel] Will Be Purged From the Center of the Islamic World – and This is Attainable' - 10/28/05;
 See for example Special Dispatch No. 6568, Officials In Lebanese, Gazan Terror Organizations Confirm: Iran Funds Our Activity, August 11, 2016; Special Dispatch No. 6546, Iranian Basij Commander Naqdi Visits Quneitra, Syria, July 27, 2016.
 Farsi.khamenei.ir, June 15, 2018.
 English.khamenei.ir, February 21, 2017.
 Tasnimnews.com, June 2, 2018.
 ISNA (Iran), June 5, 2018.
 Tasnimnews.com, June 8, 2018.
 Tasnimnews.com, June 8, 2018.
 IRNA (Iran), June 7, 2018.
 Tasnimnews.com, June 7, 2018.
 Tasnimnews.com, June 7, 2018.
 Snn.ir, November 11, 2014.
 Fars (Iran), August 27, 2014.
 Fars (Iran), November 26, 2014.
 IRNA (Iran), November 27, 2014.
 Khamenei.ir, July 23, 2014.