(photo credit: AP [file])
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's declaration regarding a worldwide Muslim referendum on the transfer of Israel to Europe, America or Alaska further serves to underscore the fact that we are dealing with a lunatic - a shrewd one, yes, but a lunatic nevertheless.
The problem is this: The world - and especially we Jews - have had bad experiences with lunatics who have military power; we have seen their mad visions become reality.
Iran is a regional superpower and the fear that it will soon arm itself with nuclear weapons is not paranoia.
Hitler spoke of "annihilating the Jewish people;" Ahmadinejad is satisfied with "wiping Israel off the map." In both cases the threat is accompanied by a campaign of unmatched hatred and incitement.
Indeed, not since the Nazi anti-Jewish onslaught has the world seen an organized campaign of hysterical and psychotic hatred such as the one currently being waged in the capitals of the Arab and Muslim world.
So what can we do?
FOR MANY long years, we have viewed our national security as being directly linked to our ability to prevail over the armies of the Arab countries on the conventional battlefield. The fact that we have succeeded in preventing yet another invasion by Arab armies, that we have signed peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan are outstanding accomplishments on the part of the tiny, courageous Israeli island.
Now we are seeing hatred of Israel take on new forms unrelated to the traditional battlefield: the development of long-range missiles equipped with weapons of mass destruction, the "conventional" shelling of civilian targets in Israel from across the border; and suicide terrorism.
All these dangers can be traced to Iran, but of them all, it is the nuclear threat that is the most terrible. Even our security doctrine in the face of a nuclear threat has been undermined - because even if Israel is able to unleash a counterstrike, its tiny dimensions weaken its position in the balance of terror, especially in view of the fact that the Iranian leader is apparently willing to absorb a serious blow in order to restore the Muslim-Shi'ite crown to its former glory, and bring about the return of the hidden imam.
Worse still, even if the nuclearization of Iran is delayed (due to international pressure or a military strike) this would only temporarily obstruct Iran's drive to achieve a nuclear bomb.
The Middle East is facing the danger of nuclear proliferation, whether the Muslim countries develop them on their own - Libya was far closer to nuclearization than Western intelligence was aware - or in other ways. Ultimately, wealthy Muslim countries will be able to purchase nuclear weapons either directly, or by buying the expertise needed to manufacture them.
IN A nuclearized Middle East, Israel's edge on the traditional battlefield will disappear and the weakness of its tiny dimensions will be emphasized. And, indeed, if one day there is someone we can talk to and rely on, Israel will have to agree to demilitarize the entire Middle East, Israel included, of nuclear weapons. What we prepared for a "rainy day" back in the 1950s and 1960s can eventually become a stumbling block.
Until that day comes, Israel must defend itself in two principal ways: the first being to invest a supreme national effort in an anti-missile system. The defense minister said recently that Israel would be able to intercept 90 percent of all missiles fired at it - and that is encouraging, but we must make a paramount effort to attain a higher interception rate. According to experts, this can be done; success depends mainly on the amount of resources invested.
The second way is to deter the enemy from using weapons of mass destruction against us. This deterrence can be attained if Israel becomes part of a larger defense system, preferably in the context of NATO. This will make it clear to the Arab-Muslim world that Israel is defended not only by itself but also by powerful partners.
GRANTED, this might not influence Ahmadinejad, but others among the Iranian leadership are likely to be deterred by the threat of a clash with NATO.
And it is important to present this demand before making any further concessions, and before the international summit in Annapolis is held.
The concessions we are being asked to make to the Palestinians are not easy: We have already seen what happened in the wake of the disengagement from Gaza. We have no guarantee that a peace agreement with the Palestinians will prevent the future shelling of the Israeli heartland, just as the Palestinians are shelling Sderot and the entire western Negev.
The balancing element involves more than just an agreement - even an interim agreement - with the Palestinians, rather the possibility of attaching to such an agreement an unequivocal, firm demand that must be made of the United States and Europe. The agreement must be accompanied by strategic security arrangements in the context of NATO.
To accomplish this, we must not rule out a priori the parallel membership of Palestine in this organization. After all, the entry of Israel alone will not have any chance of success unless it is accompanied by the entry of an Arab country too.
Ahmadinejad will not be physically present in Annapolis, but his threats will be there, hovering above the conference table. The response to these threats is to include the Palestinians in the context of a defense alliance.
An alliance of this kind would minimize the existential dangers posed to Israel, compared to which the other dangers - which do indeed exist - are dwarfed.