The problem is that while Zakaria notes that Khamenei is a canny politician, he is clueless that he is the person being conned.
Zakaria is brainwashed like most reporters into the fiction that the "occupation" is the single biggest obstacle to peace and that if only Israel would give away more land then everything would be OK. He applies this false meme into what Khamanei says, and therefore ignores what Khamanei actually says and means.
Yes, it is true that Iran does not want a direct war with Israel. It wants to destroy Israel by any other means. But, contrary to what Zakaria ways, that means includes indirect war. In 2012, he said:
We have intervened in the anti-Israel struggle, and the results have been the victories in the 33 days war [the 2006 war with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon] and the 22 days war [Israel’s attacks on the Gaza strip in December 2008]. From now on we will also support any nation, any group that confronts the Zionist regime, we will help them, and we are not shy about doing so. Israel will go, it must not survive, and it will not.
Nothing about democracy there. Iran knows that if it attacks through Hezbollah or other terror groups, Israel would find it difficult to muster world support for an attack on Iran in response. So Khamenei cultivates those willing to die for the cause while shielding Iran from reprisals.
However, Khamenei knows that the Western world is enamoured of the idea of democracy, so he also created a lie that he cares about democracy too.
In the beginning, his message was not quite as on target. In 1994 he said:
Palestine belongs to the Palestinians. If the Palestinians in Palestine—in all of Palestine—form a government, peace will prevail. If you [Israel’s supporters] are truthful [about wanting peace], and if you have not conspired against the Palestinian nation, Islamic nations, and Islam, that is the solution.Nothing about democracy then either. But then he refined the message:
The solution is for the millions of the Palestinians to return to Palestine, the several millions that live away from home to return to Palestine. The indigenous people of Palestine—Jews, Christians, and Muslims—should hold a referendum to decide what kind of a regime they want. The vast majority are Muslims. There are also Jews and Christians that belong there, as their parents also lived there. They can decide the political system that they favor. Then, that state would decide what to do with the people that have moved there over the last forty to fifty years. Keep them there, return them to their original country, keep them in a special part, whatever decision the new Palestinian government makes should be respected. This is the solution to the crisis. So long as it is not implemented, no other solution will be effective.Khamenei isn't saying that the people who live in the arbitrary boundaries of British Mandate Palestine should be allowed to vote, as Azkaria implies. Jews are a majority there. Khamenei is saying that all Palestinians whose ancestors lived in Palestine at any time should be given the right to vote, but the only Jews who have that right are the ones who lived there before Israel existed. Any Jews who lived in Israel for decades have no say. And then, the resulting nation has the right to expel those Jews if they decide to do so "democratically."
This isn't democracy; it is rigging the game so that suckers like Zakaria believe that Khamenei cares about democracy while he plans on ethnically cleansing millions of Jews from their homes.
Zakaria doesn't think that is worth mentioning.
And in the tweet that he mentions, Khamenei says this explicitly - but Zakaria only quoted the part that make Khamenei sound like he is peaceful:
Notice that Khamenei's plan also includes attacks against Israeli Jews by arming West Bank terrorists.
And the one word that Khamenei doesn't say, but Zakaria emphasizes, is "occupation."
Now, let's look at the quote that Zakaria did take from this screed, where Khamenei is saying he doesn't want a "classical war" with Israel. would handing a nuclear bomb to Hezbollah or another group to approach Tel Aviv by sea and explode it be considered "classical"?
Khamenei also puts out videos like this threatening Israel with missiles:
Zakaria's defense of Khamenei, and his idea that Israel's control of its ancestral lands is a problem that would neutralize Khamenei's threat, is fantasy. And one must wonder why he either didn't read, didn't understand or chose to not inform his audience about the entire Khamenei plan that he quoted that shows that democracy is the least of Khamenei's interests.
(h/t Richard Landes)