Son of the last Shah of Iran on his first visit to Israel

JERUSALEM (AP) – The exiled Iranian crown prince will arrive in Israel this week on a visit that reflects the warm ties his father once had with Israel and the current state of hostility between Israel and the Islamic Republic.

Reza Pahlavi, the son of the last Shah to rule Iran before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, said Sunday that he would carry “a message of friendship from the Iranian people.”

He will attend Israel’s annual Holocaust memorial ceremony Monday night, said Israeli Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel, who will receive him. He will also visit a desalination plant, tour the Western Wall and meet with representatives of the local Baha’i community and Israeli Jews of Iranian descent, she said.

Gamliel praised Pahlavi’s “brave decision” to do what she said would be his first visit to Israel. “The Crown Prince symbolizes leadership different from that of the Ayatollah regime, invoking values ​​such as peace and tolerance, in contrast to the extremists who rule Iran,” she said.

Pahlavi left Iran at the age of 17 for a military flight school in the US, just before his father, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was suffering from cancer, left the throne to go into exile. Revolution followed with the founding of the Islamic Republic, the takeover of the US embassy in Tehran and the removal of the last remnants of the American-backed monarchy.

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

It is not known whether he can win support for a return to power. His father ruled lavishly and repressively, profiting from a 1953 CIA-backed coup. The late Shah also had close diplomatic and military ties with Israel.

That ended in 1979 when the leader of the Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, declared Israel an “enemy of Islam” and severed all ties. Today the countries are arch-enemies. Israel regards Iran as its greatest threat, citing the country’s calls to destroy Israel, its support of hostile militant groups on Israel’s borders and its nuclear program. Iran has denied allegations by Israel and its western allies that it is aiming for a nuclear bomb.

“I want the people of Israel to know that the Islamic Republic does not represent the Iranian people. The old bond between our people can be rekindled for the benefit of both nations,” Pahlavi said on Twitter.

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