STANFORD, Calif. — Although the Israeli and Iranian governments have been virtually at war with each other for decades, the two countries have much in common.
Both are home to some of the oldest civilizations on earth, and both are primarily non-Arab states in a mostly Arab region. In the 1950s, David Ben-Gurion’s Israel and Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi’s Iran were bastions of secular nationalism; the shah pushed authoritarian modernization, while Ben-Gurion advanced a form of nonreligious Zionism. Only after the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran did radical Islam all but eclipse this secular brand of politics. It held on for much longer in Israel but is now under threat.