By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address to the United States Congress early this month may have been ill advised, but I’m among those who find it impossible to ignore what he said that Iran is threatening the very existence of Israel. Indeed, perhaps the deal now about to be struck in Switzerland concerning Iran’s nuclear arsenal may assuage the fears of the negotiators, but Israel may have to pay the price. It wouldn’t be the first time in history that the world has let down the Jews.
Israelis whose opinion I respect from across the political spectrum seem to be confirming it. I’ve the impression that no responsible politician here would make light of the Iranian threat whether or not s/he speaks about it in public. All seem to acknowledge that that the rulers of Iran want to destroy Israel. The vile statements that come from their supreme leader and many of their other leaders about the Jewish state and the Jewish people cannot be ascribed to empty rhetoric.
Iran has already its stooges firmly in place on Israel’s borders: Hezbollah in the North and Hamas in the South. Though the Israel Defense Forces are stronger than the terrorists and, we pray, will remain so, previous confrontations have also cost Israeli lives: the Gaza war of last summer comes to mind. Future confrontations cannot be ruled out. The pleasant normality of Israeli daily life belies an underlying anxiety which many of its citizens recognized as the motif in Netanyahu’s speech.
Perhaps the marginally better news is that Iran is also threatening Arab countries. The terrible situation in Syria, Iraq and now also in Yemen and elsewhere is further destabilizing an already extremely volatile region. I haven’t read or heard anything that suggests that the bombing raids by Saudi Arabia, Jordan and others (with the help of the United States) are going to resolve the crisis. The decision by the Arab League to mount a joint force, presumably joining in the operation against Iran’s proxies in Yemen, hasn’t been met by much enthusiasm by people who seem to know what they’re talking about.
The Arab Spring soon turned into a very cold winter. It’s difficult to believe that this most recent awakening of Arab identity in the face of the threat from Iran and mixed with the perennial Sunni-Shia war will fare better. For one thing, some of the Arab countries may at present cooperate with Israel under the radar, but it would be too naïve to assume that they’re doing it in appreciation of the Jewish State. Netanyahu may have been right when he said in Congress that “my enemy’s enemy is – my enemy.”
The fact that, despite nice words, the Obama administration may not achieve what it says is its purpose is, of course, extremely troubling. Much of the criticism of the President of the United States seems to be motivated by internal politics and voiced by people with agendas of their own – which is another reason why Prime Minister Netanyahu should keep out of it – but criticism of his seemingly naïve belief that he can stop Iran going nuclear may be justified.
The Psalmist’s dictum, “Don’t put your trust in princes” has universal validity: whether the prince is the American president or his secretary of state, or Israel’s now almost crowned prince – the past, present and future prime minister – any Jew sensitive to history cannot be but deeply concerned yet hoping and praying that this danger too shall pass.