In marmur

By Rabbi Dow Marmur.

The Israeli daily Ha’aretz reports that Israel’s Consul-General in Philadelphia recently sent a letter to the Foreign Ministry suggesting that Israel is losing the support of American Jewry over Iran. If he’s right, does it mean that Prime Minister Netanyahu is wrong or is it because American Jews will always support their political party at home over the government of Israel?

Both possibilities must be considered. In the past, American Jews have remained loyal to the Democratic Party even when the Republican president was a greater supporter of Israel. Will they do so again, albeit this time in reverse order, by supporting Obama even though he seems to be at odds with Netanyahu and despite the passionate support for the latter’s arguments by Republicans? And will Jews not vote for Hillary Clinton who has declared her commitment to the deal?

On the other hand, it’s also possible that the prime minister of Israel and with him his cabinet and official spokespersons for Diaspora Jewry are wrong on Iran. That’s how we might read reports by leaders of Israel’s intelligence community – all retired, of course – who are quoted to have said that the deal may not be as bad as it is being presented by Israel and that, in any case, alternative deals or no deal may turn out to be much worse.

If you’re a pessimist like me you may feel – feel rather than know, of course – that the deal is as bad as they say it is. But if you’re also  – like me – skeptical about anything that the current government of Israel is saying you may feel that its critics are right, especially as they include people who ought to be in the know.

In my confusion I ask with many others: Let’s assume that the deal is really bad, but it’s now done: will it be better for Israel (and for the United States) if – and that’s a very big if, indeed – Congress rejects it with a majority that’ll make it impossible for President Obama to veto it?  The other partners in the negotiations with Iran will accept it. Where will that leave the United States and Israel?

These questions should perhaps persuade us to take to heart the arguments that whether the deal is good or bad it’s done and to undo it would be worse. Prime Minister Netanyahu has stuck out his neck too much to adopt this stance. Another prime minister might. Is a change of government possible?

It doesn’t seem so. Even if Israel goes to elections again, there’s little evidence that Herzog’s and Livni’s Zionist Union will do well enough to form the next government. Indeed, will the Zionist Union survive? It seems to be too timid to take a stance on this and other vital issues. Often it’s Yair Lapid, the leader of Yesh Atid, who seems to be speaking as if he were the Leader of the Opposition.

Periods of uncertainty aren’t unusual in Israel and the current one always seems the most dramatic. But the stakes may be higher this time: not only the threat of a nuclear Iran but the potential loss of Israel’s most powerful and important ally, the United States.

This piece (I got the spelling right this time) contains an inordinate number of questions. Because we’ve no answers and no power to change things it’s tempting to ignore the big issues and get on with our own lives. But can powerlessness ever justify indifference?

Jerusalem 30.7.15

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