By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
Raviv Drucker, commentator on Israel’s TV Channel 10 and a columnist in Ha’aretz, seems to me to be the best informed and most incisive commentator on Israeli politics. Speaking on the eve of Netanyahu’s appeal to American Jewry to help him defeat the Iran deal, Drucker suggested that we should fear not the failure of the prime minister’s efforts but of its success.
Not only are Netanyahu’s efforts poisoning the atmosphere between him and Obama – and thus between Israel and the United States – but he has also let Israel’s ambassador in Washington lose on the members of Congress. Imagine, said Drucker, what Israelis would feel if the US ambassador here would approach members of Knesset urging them to vote against the government.
If Netanyahu succeeds, it’ll be impossible for President Obama to veto the decisions of the Senate and the House of Representatives. All the other partners to the deal with Iran will stay by their commitment; in fact, several European ministers have already been to Teheran preparing for the resumption of business. A US rejection would, of course, free Iran from whatever obligations to halt the nuclear programme to which the deal has committed it. It would leave the United States out on a limb with its Administration doing its best to punish Israel the spoil sport.
But that’s not why leading Israeli security experts have urged Netanyahu to step back and accept the deal. They did it because they believe that it’s good for Israel. CNN interviewed on Tuesday the former head of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission, a man who surely can read the small print of the deal and whose record of commitment to the State of Israel isn’t in doubt. He’s for the deal, not only because it’s better than the alternatives but because it’s a good deal. If the United States withdraws, Israel will be the loser and at a much greater risk than ever.
We don’t know how the leaders of American Jewry will act and what will the big Jewish donors to the Democratic Party tell its representatives. But we can surmise that Jews in many other countries, not least Canada, will nod their heads in agreement with Netanyahu and repeat his words. Rabbis won’t cite Drucker or the former atomic energy head in their sermons but only the well-worn phrases of Netanyahu.
Though this time he didn’t invoke Munich in 1938 or British Prime Minister Chamberlain and only made oblique references to the Holocaust, Netanyahu’s stance is well known: the world wants to destroy us the way Hitler wanted to destroy us but this time we’ve a Jewish state with me at its helm, so we know how to defend ourselves.
But even so there’s still may an argument for accepting the Iran deal. Even if it’s a bad deal, Israel will know how to defend itself. By maintaining good bipartisan relations with the United States – not only with the Republicans – Israel will be able to count on American support in its noble struggle for survival and normality.
Why Netanyahu and his government don’t adopt this version remains a riddle to me and probably others. Has he been blinded by his ideology and/or by his desire to hold on to power at all cost? Whatever the answer, there seems to be strong case for praying for his failure to move the United States Congress to a decision that may be very harmful to all concerned, especially to the State of Israel.