Operation Pillar of Defense began and ended while I was in the United States on a lecture tour. During the course of the war, I longed to return home, not only to be with my immediate family but to unite with my extended family; the Jewish people in Israel.

I arrived back in Israel the day after the operation ended, as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu faced a bombardment of criticism from various facets of the Israeli public for having implemented a cease-fire, which led me to the following consideration.

While traveling through Houston, Texas, I was listening to the radio in an attempt to keep abreast of the news back home. People were phoning in to the radio show expressing their support for Israel’s right to defend itself; one of the listeners insisted that Israel should do whatever it takes to protect its cities, as he proclaimed that Israel enjoyed the support of almost all US citizens “barring the 69 percent of the Jewish community who re-elected Obama” only a few days prior to the war.

I began to contemplate why the majority of the Jewish community in the United States would vote for a president who clearly did not foster a positive rapport with the prime minister, having snubbed Netanyahu more than once. Why would a large contingent of the Jewish community in the United States opt to reelect a president who demonstrated little overt support for its strongest ally in the Middle East, if not in the entire international community, as opposed to electing an alternative candidate who seemed particularly interested in fortifying the relationship with Israel? One can legitimately suggest that the primary concern of much of the Jewish community in the US (which includes a large constituency of unaffiliated Jews) is America’s economic future, and assuring themselves that they would receive the social benefits which they feel they deserve, while the future of America’s policy toward Israel is of secondary concern.

This painful observation is based upon the stark differentiation between successful leadership in the US, which is determined through economic stability, as opposed to successful leadership in Israel, corroborated by expediting security. I am well aware that this distinction is not particularly insightful, but it is important to recognize when reviewing Netanyahu’s facilitation and implementation of the cease-fire. Operation Pillar of Defense was so named because its goal was to do exactly that; to defend the people and citizens of Israel.

EN ROUTE to Israel knowing the war had ended, I found myself distraught over the fact that as a motivational speaker for the IDF I had not had the opportunity to do my share and partake in the war effort of my country, but when I put things into perspective I realized how foolish this was.

After all, the rocket attacks had for the moment subsided and the frightening imminent prospect of having to send troops into Gaza, placing their lives in grave danger, had abated.

Living in Israel one should realize that security is subject to interpretation and is therefore short-lived – all the more reason to recognize that the terms of success of our government and army are defined by Israel’s citizens and soldiers being out of harm’s way and less subject to impending danger, as was the case at the end of Operation Pillar of Defense.

Yet there are those critics who castigate Netanyahu, referring to him as a “wimp” for not being more aggressive and calling him “yellow” for avoiding a ground attack. How many of these same critics have been involved in combat in a place such as Gaza city; densely populated, laden with booby traps, crawling with terrorists who crave death for the sake of jihad? How many of these same critics have sons who serve in units which would be called upon to explore these corridors of death? Netanyahu was strong enough to show restraint and smart and sensitive enough to realize that the weight of both civilian and military casualties rests, heavily, upon his shoulders alone.

This is a time when we should unite around a prime minister who has had the resolve to stand in front of the United Nations more than once and declare that Israel will do anything necessary to defend its people, as is its moral obligation regardless of what the rest of the world has to say.

We should support a prime minister who has proven that he understands when restraint is translated as weakness and when one needs to apply force and aggressiveness, as evident by his actions not only during this operation but also during Operation Cast Lead.

Prime Minister Netanyahu should be commended for his insistence upon any potential “negotiating partner,” regardless of their being recognized by the United Nations as a nonmember observer state, first needing to recognize Israel’s right to exist as the Jewish homeland.

This posture should not be taken for granted because it represents dependable policies which recent prime ministers have proven they could not uphold.

Perhaps some facets of the Jewish community who reside in the United States need to reassess and hopefully strengthen their commitment to the Jewish homeland, but those of us who live here should rally around a leader who is militarily strong, strategically intelligent and politically ethical by virtue of the fact that he seeks to assure his citizens that which they elected him for in the first place; the ability to return home with peace of mind.

The writer teaches at Yeshiva Hesder Kiryat Gat and serves as a lecturer for the IDF Rabbinate, as well as for the Menachem Begin Heritage Center Israel Government Fellows. He is also an author and lecturer on Israel, Religious Zionism and Jewish education.

www.rabbihammer.com

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