By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
First we heard about Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon making a speech at Tel Aviv University in which he spoke disparagingly of the United States inability to deal with Iran (and with Crimea). Therefore, Israel might have to go it alone. The White House was outraged and Yaalon was forced to apologize to the US defense secretary.
Not long ago Yaalon had badmouthed Secretary of State Kerry belittling his efforts to bring Israelis and Palestinians together for peace negotiations. After that Yaalon had to eat humble pie. It was his first apology.
The American administration and analysts in Israel were quick to condemn the defense minister, especially after the second incident. Those in the know – e.g., Dov Weissglass, chief of staff in the late Prime Minister Arik Sharon’s office – argued that, in every government, the defense minister has been the unofficial United States ambassador to the cabinet reminding strident colleagues of Israel’s dependence – militarily, diplomatically, politically and to a large extent also financially – on good Uncle Sam.
The pundits also said that it’s bad enough that Israel’s defense minister should have spoken ill of a trusted ally once – but twice? One began to wonder whether he had lost it, or if he was running errands for Prime Minister Netanyahu who didn’t say anything in public on either occasion and, therefore, it was assumed that he concurred with Yaalon’s outbursts.
And today I read the government of Israel has set aside billions of shekels to finance a possible strike on Iran. The large sum of money implies that the United States isn’t going to be part of it. Though the announcement wasn’t official, it looks like a deliberate leak, for it’s not normal for an army, as well trained and as well disciplined as Israel’s, to tell the media what it’s about to do to an enemy. Why? Three scenarios:
I obviously don’t have an answer but I speculate that it’s all theatre. The purpose is to scare the Iranians and push them to play ball now when the second round of negotiations have started. The Americans may be actors in the charade and their indignation with Yaalon may have been put on, as were his strident words followed by the apology. Needless to say, I haven’t come across anybody else who shares this fantasy. If mine is a possible scenario then, of course, the Iranians must be on to it. They have the means to check the facts. Therefore, if my hunch is right, the whole thing will have failed because Iran will know that it’s a game and thus remain as smiling sweetly and as steely intransigent as they’ve been hitherto. A charade is just that – a charade.
If, I’m wrong, we may be in real trouble: Israel may indeed bomb Iran and then all hell will break lose. They’ll bomb us and their stooges Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist groups will attack us on land. Scary!
Mercifully, I haven’t heard anybody painting such a grim picture either. All that I hear and read is that Yaalon, a former chief of staff, is a straight shooter and says things as they are. This may be OK for a general, but it’s not OK for a politician who’s said to have aspirations to succeed or replace Netanyahu. He was voted in a recent poll the least unpopular member of the Israeli cabinet, which is something of an achievement.
The first scenario may be the least likely, the second the most ominous, the third would suggest business as usual in Israeli politics.