The Jewish response

Jews have a knack for maintaining a positive, proactive outlook despite setbacks and defeats. It is part of our culture.

July 16, 2015 21:55
3 minute read.
Kerry and Zarif in Vienna

Secretary Kerry Poses for a Group Photo With Fellow EU, P5+1 Foreign Ministers and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif After Reaching Iran Nuclear Deal. (photo credit: STATE DEPARTMENT PHOTO)

Throughout their long, bitter history, Jews have striven to highlight as much as possible the positive, while ignoring or vowing to change the negative.

The celebration of Purim, for instance, focuses on the political activism of Mordechai and Esther and the bravery of Jews who took advantage of the opportunity to fight back against their enemies. Hardly any mention is made of the vulnerability of Persia’s Jewish community as it continued to live under the fickle rule of King Ahasuerus.

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On Passover we commemorate the Exodus, not the whining, the wandering, and the long delay in realization of the Jewish people’s political autonomy.

Even the Fast of Tisha Be’av mixes the Jewish people’s inextinguishable yearning for ultimate redemption symbolized by a rebuilt Jerusalem with the mourning over destruction and exile.

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Jews, in short, have a knack for maintaining a positive, proactive outlook despite setbacks and defeats. It is part of our culture. It is a secret to our success. And it comes in handy as we cope with what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referred to as a “stunning historic mistake.”

The preeminent terrorist state of the 21st century, which both in word and deed has worked to “wipe Israel off the map,” has effectively been transformed into an internationally recognized threshold nuclear state and has received an OK to reenter the world community of legitimate nation states.

This is bad for the Jews. But what is the best Jewish response? First of all, our leaders must not give up hope that the very bad deal can be amended if not blocked altogether. It may seem nearly impossible to muster a two-thirds majority in the US Congress that would be willing to override a veto by US President Barack Obama.

But Jews have not been dissuaded by seemingly insurmountable obstacles in the past, why start now? The very raison d’etre of a Jewish state is to chart an independent foreign policy with Jewish interests in mind. Jews have been subject to the whims of various host nations throughout their long exile. At the very least we must be grateful that, no matter how dire the situation, we are today in an unfathomably better position to protect ourselves than ever before in history.

Even if Israel’s efforts to torpedo the nuclear weapon deal with Iran ultimately fail, not all is lost. Along with new dangers come new opportunities.

Aware of the risks Israel faces as a result of a resurgent Iran, the US has shown a willingness to extend to the Jewish state unprecedented military cooperation.

In direct conversations with Netanyahu, Obama has already offered to upgrade the IDF’s offensive and defensive capabilities. The prime minister has so far not responded to these offers to avoid implying Israeli willingness to come to terms with the deal.

But if the deal becomes a fait accompli, Israel will undoubtedly enter into negotiations with the US on how best to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge, given the changes that will inevitably take place in the region as a result of the nuclear accord.

Also, with opposition leader Isaac Herzog fully backing Netanyahu’s position against the Iran deal, our narrow government coalition will benefit from a certain amount of stability, which is good for governance.

Finally, opposition to the deal might create new opportunities for cooperation between Israel and Sunni states.

There is a new reality in the Middle East. Old alliances are falling apart. Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt share Israel’s concern about an Iran with nuclear capability. Perhaps shared interests will lead to more substantial ties.

The “historic” deal between world powers and Iran is bad for the Jews. But Jewish reactions to pivotal events in Jewish history tend to emphasize a strong faith in one’s ability to change realities. And even if efforts to amend or block the deal in the US Congress fail, we must do everything in our power to make the best of the situation by taking advantage of the opportunities it has created in military cooperation with America and improved relations with Sunni states in the region. This would be the fitting Jewish response that follows in a long, honorable tradition of making the best of even the most desperate situations.

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