Mark Lavie has had a distinguished career in journalism. I well remember listening to his informative and unbiased reports from Israel on CBC radio. He has also written books. The latest is called, Are We Still Afraid? I gather from his piece on the “Jewish Website” of January 17 that it’s about Israel and Iran, particularly about Prime Minister Netanyahu’s “bragging” about Israeli strikes against Iranian positions in Syria that “invites – almost obligates – the Iranians to respond.”
But, according to Lavie, “Iran isn’t interested in a war with Israel. It’s interested, as Middle Eastern regimes have been for years, in talking about Israel, threatening Israel, slandering Israel. Not actually doing anything.” I understand this to say that, in the eyes of some, it’s “safe” for Israel’s leaders now in power to advocate attacking Iran for their own purposes.
Lavie again: “Israeli experts who may not be quoted by name consider Iran a ‘rational player’. That is in stark contrast to the regime of crazy hate-driven mullahs that Israel and its allies in the US government want us to imagine.” He suggests that Israel can permit itself its excesses because “there will be no nuclear attack on Israel from Iran.”
So why the alarm bells all over Israel? Because “it’s how Netanyahu stays in power.”
Iran is Netanyahu’s obsession because it’s one of his tools to make sure that he’s re-elected. Lavie writes with biting irony that “Netanyahu is threatened by the hated, semi-traitorous left on one side and the immoral, ambitious, and leftist police and judiciary on the other.” Lavie, therefore, asks rhetorically: “So what’s a little war with Iran compared to all that?”
He also reminds readers that Netanyahu’s US Congress address in 2015 to lobby against the nuclear deal with Iran “caused, or at least exacerbated, an unprecedented split between Israel and the mainstream Democratic Party.” There was, of course, no chance, writes Lavie, that Netanyahu could have stopped the deal, “but he gained ’toughness’ points from his base back home.” Possible short-term gain likely to cause long-term pain.
The relationship between Israel and American Jewry – predominantly committed to the Democratic Party – has already been severely compromised. After what many of us hope will be a relatively brief interlude of the Trump presidency, the relationship with Israel’s most important and most powerful ally may be irreparably damaged.
Traditional Jewish sources, without minimizing the evil intentions and ferocity of our enemies, nevertheless often argued that it was our own leaders who brought about many of the calamities that befell our people. In their ostensible zeal to defend us, leaders sometimes brought about our defeat and worse. Are we in that situation today? Are all the signs of prosperity in the land, the ingenuity of its citizens and growing recognition by the outside world to end, God beware, in disaster?
Mark Lavie seems to imply that this is indeed possible. That’s how he concludes his article: “So why scare the people? Why provoke Iran? Why anger the US president and alienate millions of Americans? It’s all for Israeli politics, of course. It’s how Netanyahu stays in power. But the cost, already high, could become catastrophic: An unnecessary war.”
Jerusalem 18.1.19 Dow Marmur