I am obsessed with the subject of Iran.
Like many others in the Jewish community, I worry about the threat that Iran poses for Israel and the interests of the West, and I strongly suspect that military action will be necessary to deal with that threat. I have read hundreds of articles on the subject in recent months in an effort to better understand the issues. The following are a number of questions that continue to puzzle and trouble me:
Why the silence of so many western intellectuals and governments leaders about the anti-Semitic ravings of Iran’s president and “Supreme leader”? Yes, sanctions are in place, whether effective or not. But there seems to be reluctance in respectable intellectual circles—including in some cases Jewish ones—to call Iran’s government to account for its lunatic, Jew-hating rants. Please, no more talk about how Iran is somehow a “rational actor” on the international stage. There is nothing rational about people who talk that way.
Why are Israel’s political leaders attacking her military leaders over differences in strategy on Iran? According to reports from Israel’s most respected journalists, Israel’s political leaders have referred to top military commanders as “rear end coverers” and self-interested careerists because of their failure to agree with their civilian bosses about an Israeli attack on Iran. Israel is a small, vulnerable country, and her military is essential for her survival. The Israel Defense Forces—despite inevitable lapses over the years—still command great respect among all elements of Israel’s citizenry. Note to the political leadership: You are in charge of the military, but perhaps you could find a way to deal with your differences that does not involve sweeping condemnations in off-the-record briefings to reporters.
Why is Avigdor Lieberman still the Foreign Minister of Israel? The issue is not that I disagree with Mr. Lieberman, but that the Prime Minister disagrees with him—and continually finds it necessary to distance himself and his government from the views that Lieberman expresses. And at this moment, Israel desperately needs a chief diplomat who can travel the world and articulate Israel’s case on Iran. Lieberman, shunned by even friendly nations and discredited by the government that appointed him, simply cannot fulfill that role.
Why is Maj.-Gen. Yaakov Amidror, Israel’s national security advisor, briefing Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef on the possibility of an attack on Iran? Rabbi Yosef is one of the great halakhic authorities of the modern era, but in recent years he has been guilty of hateful attacks on those that he sees as enemies, in both the Jewish and non-Jewish world. Much of the time he seems to have lost his bearings. More to the point, Israel is not a theocracy, ruled by its clerics; it is a parliamentary democracy. If the Shas members of the government are briefed on Iran and choose to brief Rabbi Yosef in turn, fine. But it would be best for Israel not to give the impression that elderly, unelected rabbis will be making critical decisions on Iran policy.
I will continue to search for answers to these questions. In the meantime, it is my fervent hope that the government of Israel, in partnership with the United States, will find the response that is needed to the threat of a nuclear Iran.