The news is filled with one major issue these days — Iran! The centrifuges continue to spin as Iran gets closer to full nuclear capability. The US and Europe have tried sanctions with only limited success as China and Russia continue to refuse to join in the sanctions. Ahmedinejad continues to make bold and hateful statements about his desire to wipe the Jewish state off the map, even as he denies that the Holocaust, the last attempt to destroy the entire Jewish people, ever happened.
There has been lively debate in Israel as to whether a pre-emptive strike is a good thing. Central to the debate has been the role of the US. The Obama Administration has made it clear that it does not want Israel to attack Iran and is pressuring Israel to give sanctions more time. Recently, Defense Minister Ehud Barak summed up the discrepancy between the US and Israel on this issue as the two countries operating on a different time clock. The US has the capability to bomb the nuclear facilities even after Iran takes them all underground. Israel does not. That means, if Israel is to miss the opportunity to bomb Iran before the key installations are buried, they will then be relying on the US to take out Iran in their stead.
An editorial in this past weekend’s Washington Post pointed out that while Obama has been pressuring Israel not to attack Iran, he has not been willing to commit to a fixed set of red lines that, crossed by Iran, would compel the US to attack. The article called upon Obama to set red lines and declare them, in the hope that such a statement, in its own right, would deter Iran from moving forward, and perhaps enable Israel to rely upon the US.
Another interesting comment in that editorial was the statement that the US has become so obsessed with stopping Israel from attacking Iran that its focus has changed from the Iran problem to the Israel problem. Certainly not an effective way to stop Iran.
If, indeed, the Obama administration were to make such a statement, what should Israel do? Should it rely on the US and refrain from launching its own attack or should it attack in any case? This, indeed, is the crux of the issue that Israel faces today. The central principle behind this dilemma is the nature of Israel’s relationship with its allies and in particular the US.
In 1981, Israel was confronted with a nuclear reactor in Iraq, a country with deep hostility to Israel. The US urged Israel to refrain from action but then prime minister Menachem Begin took the brave decision and attacked. The attack was a brilliant success but the US, together with many other countries, roundly condemned Israel. Ten years later, when the US attacked Iraq in response to the latter’s invasion of Kuwait, Iraq had no nuclear capability with which to threaten the US and its allies. Eventually, the US admitted it owed a great debt of gratitude to Israel for destroying that reactor.
Some US commentators and military experts have pointed out that the US has never attacked another country if it has not been attacked previously. Even in World War II, when it was clear that Nazi Europe was a huge threat to freedom and democracy everywhere, it took the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor to force the US into the war. And it attacked Afghanistan and then Iraq in recent years in response to the attack on the World Trade Center. Will the US, then, be willing to attack Iran if it has not been attacked first? While Iran does threaten the entire world, there is no question that the threat to Israel is far more immediate.
Beyond Iran, however, there is a growing, serious threat to the entire western world and it is a threat that the US and Western Europe would do well to heed. The Arab Spring has since turned into the Arab Nightmare, as the Moslem Brotherhood has taken over Egypt, civil war rages in Syria, and hostile Islamist dictatorships have come to power in Libya and Tunisia. While there is a degree of tension in the region between Sunni and Shiite groups, there seems to be an overarching unity among all of these Islamic radical groups when it comes to facing the West. In short, we are witnessing the growth of a new superpower in the Middle East — a pan Islamic power. A nuclear Iran will shift the balance of power considerably and enable rogue nations, terrorist groups and many Arab countries to pose a serious threat to the Free World. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the US has been the sole super-power — a situation that cannot last. Will the US be ready to face the power that threatens it and its allies?
In Biblical times, Israel was at the crossroads between two huge empires — Egypt in the west and Assyria or Babylonia in the east. Israel was often tempted to rely on the one, usually Egypt, in order to stave off the threat from the other. But the prophets were clear on this subject — Israel should not rely on the west. It must rely on G-d alone!
And perhaps this is the message that is most critical today. Alliances can be a good thing and the fact that Israel shares many values with the West enables a great deal of cooperation in so many fields. But reliance is quite another thing. The risks of relying on the US are obvious. And perhaps the situation we face today is such that Israel will be forced to go it alone. Forced to rely only on itself — and on the G-d of Israel.
But there is a reason for this reliance and a source for confidence. G-d has not brought us back to the Land of Israel after so many centuries of exile to have us perish in a nuclear holocaust. We are part of the greatest miracle of all time, of the rebirth of the nation in its own land, in fulfillment of G-d’s promises thousands of years ago. This fact has huge significance! While I do not advocate relying on miracles in lieu of practical action, when faced with a choice between acting decisively in a way that can save the nation, or to rely on the good graces of another nation, it is clear to me where our reliance should be placed. G-d never slumbers nor sleeps and it is in Him that our reliance should be placed.