By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
Is President Obama throwing Israel under a bus (to use the expression may popular in Canada in the Senate scandal debate) in the wake of his overt and covert negotiations with Iran? Statements by Prime Minister Netanyahu can be read in this way.
Even enthusiastic peaceniks seem to have growing reservations about the possible deal with the country that considers Israel its arch-enemy and the leaders of which – not least its “supreme leader” – use the vilest possible language to describe the Jewish state.
I found it much easier to be enthusiastic about the potential deal with Iran before I arrived in Israel. But after a few days here and despite my conviction that negotiation is better than war, it’s increasingly difficult to have firm opinions on the matter.
Though “Munich 38” has become something of a cliché favored by the political right-wing, it’s also being used by some responsible people, including in the Washington Post recently by the former Jerusalem Post editor Brett Stephens.
Normally Munich is invoked by those who fear compromise and try to show that in this particular case, whatever the agreement may say on paper and however conditional it’s considered to be, Iran will soon have a nuclear bomb which will tick over Israel. It’s probably this legitimate fear that helps to keep the present coalition government of Israel together and cast its leader as the staunch and brave defender of the country.
Not surprisingly, his predecessor doesn’t agree. Over the weekend Ehud Olmert, forced out of politics because of as yet unfinished business with the law, mounted a verbal attack on Prime Minister Netanyahu as the latter was about to depart for Rome to talk to the Italian government and to meet the Pope.
Olmert’s argument is that Netanyahu’s “defense” of Israel is dangerous because it alienates Israel’s most powerful and most important ally: the United States of America. Netanyahu, or at least many of his supporters, may wish to imply that it’s only the White House, not the US as such, that’s hostile to Israel, but the distinction won’t hold water. Olmert is very critical of Netanyahu’s efforts to turn Congress against the President.
Avigdor Lieberman, again Foreign Minister after having been cleared of criminal wrongdoing, often says what the Prime Minister implies – and more. He has recently reiterated his view that Israel should perhaps replace the US with different allies. He may be in the United States today attending some meetings, but he’s on his way to Russia for high-level talks there. And Netanyahu himself visited the Kremlin not long ago.
Vladimir Putin, who some consider to be Lieberman’s role model, is said not to be hostile to Jews and an admirer of Israel. We know from his general foreign policy, not least with regard to Syria, that he’d go a long way to annoy, perhaps even harm, the United States. He may, therefore, be happy to fill the gap left by Obama. (To which, together with many others, I say as often and as loudly as I can: Oy vey!)
All this is, of course, very dangerous for Israel because its future is largely dependent on and inextricably linked to US support, in high places no less than grass roots. To jeopardize it could be disastrous.
Under the influence of President Peres – Israel’s “good cop” to the world – and with the possibility that Labor Party under its new leader could join the Netanyahu government, many of my worst fears, I pray, will turn out to be unjustified.