By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
It may not have been as spectacular as the rescue at Entebbe, but the capture of the ship full of long range Iranian missiles on its way to Hamas in Gaza is very good news for Israel in general and its prime minister in particular.
Having, by all accounts, just delivered a stale address to an adoring audience at the AIPAC convention in Washington, which was apparently less enthusiastically received by an indifferent younger generation of American Jews in the rest of the country, Mr. Netanyahu may now be able to say to his critics at home and abroad: “I told you so: Iran is the greatest threat to the future of Israel, indeed to the rest of the world. The softly, softly approach of the American and European negotiators is only giving legitimacy to Iranian nuclear ambitions while trying to lull the rest of us into believing that the danger has been averted. Only the resolute actions by my government can save us and others from annihilation.”
He may also add under his breath, as he hinted at in his AIPAC speech, that many Arab countries support him in his anti-Iranian stance, even though they cannot say so in public. There may be no peace with the Palestinians on the horizon, and the settlements may continue to expand, but things aren’t as bad as some pundits make it out.
Apart from their prime minister, Israelis have also good reason to be pleased with the result of the capture of the ship, because the actual risk of us being hit by an Iranian missile, though not eliminated, seems to have diminished. The captured weapons are said to be able to reach much further into Israel than their predecessors. The fact that they now won’t be fired from Gaza is a source of considerable comfort.
Perhaps even more important, the action at sea has greatly enhanced the standing of the Israel Defense Forces. The need to have faith in the military is the closest to religion secular Israelis will ever come. To criticize the army is a form of blasphemy, as some left-wing dissidents have discovered over the years.
And perhaps most important: cooperation between Israel and the United States is alive and well; the alliance is as strong as it has ever been, despite the alleged lack of chemistry between the Obama and Netanyahu. The White House was quick to point out that this was a jointly researched and planned operation that the Israeli navy executed.
Ironically, today’s Ha’aretz carries an exclusive interview with the Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz in which he paints President Obama as an enemy of Israel. This is likely also to please Netanyahu who has often chosen to ally himself with the Republicans, which no doubt has greatly contributed to the coolness or worse between him and the US president.
I imagine that Netanyahu will be able to tell us when he comes back from his week in the United States – in the course of which he also launched a promotional film about Israel in which he’s the narrator – that he has stood up to the villain. And because a growing number of liberals in Israel and elsewhere have become disappointed with the US president’s performance, Netanyahu will be believed or at least people will give him the benefit of their doubt.
For the record: most of the above is, of course, speculation by a passionate observer who never ceases to pray for the safety of Israel and the Jewish people.