Iran and Israel’s fate

In recent days, Obama's message on Iran has become more emphatic.

Iran's Bushehr nuclear reactor_150 (photo credit: Reuters)
Iran's Bushehr nuclear reactor_150
(photo credit: Reuters)
US President Barack Obama has made it clear on numerous occasions that with regard to stopping Iran, “all options are on the table.” In recent days his message has become more emphatic.
Last week, he told The Atlantic that “when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say.” In a speech on Sunday to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, he declared that his policy was not to contain Iran, it was “to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” As Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu noted in his speech to AIPAC on Monday, “Israel has the same policy. “We are determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. We leave all options on the table. And containment is definitely not an option.”
Nevertheless, US and Israeli interests are not identical. The US timetable for waiting to see if increasingly stringent sanctions coupled with diplomacy and covert actions seriously delay Iran’s nuclear program stretches beyond the time frame in which we in Israel feel it is imperative to act in our own defense.
Also, due to our geographical proximity to Iran, we in Israel feel all the more vulnerable. This feeling is amplified by the fact that we are in a constant state of conflict with terrorist organizations that are Iranian proxies – Hamas on our southern border and Hezbollah to our north. A nuclear-armed Iran, in addition to being a menace to the entire civilized world, would have an immediate destabilizing impact on Israeli security. By providing Hamas and Hezbollah with what Netanyahu referred to as a “nuclear umbrella,” the Islamic Republic would embolden these two terror organizations intent on Israel’s destruction to launch increasingly daring and more murderous attacks on Israel. Israel simply cannot afford to let that happen.
True, the US president assured Israel of his support. “There should not be a shred of doubt by now: When the chips are down, I have Israel’s back.” Obama’s statement should be taken at face value for what it is: a sincere promise to provide Israel with the moral and security backing needed in case of war with Iran.
At the same time, our prime minister has an obligation to his own people. And that obligation includes exercising Israel’s sovereignty and military might in a way that best protects the citizens of the Jewish state. As Netanyahu movingly noted, the Jewish people’s status in the year 2012 is radically different from what it was on the eve of the Holocaust or, for that matter, what it was during the nearly two millennia preceding the massacre of European Jewry.
With the establishment of the State of Israel, the centuries of Jewish powerlessness – when the Jews were devoid of sovereignty, stateless and without military might – came to an end. The Jewish people has “reentered history” as a protagonist responsible for its own fate. This conviction lies at the heart of the Zionist ethos.
Indeed, if our prime minister did not reserve the right to use force to stop the Islamic Republic from achieving an atomic bomb, he would be reneging on Israel’s right, and the right of every sovereign nation, to protect itself from the aggressive actions of maniacal enemies such as Iran – which both denies the Holocaust and vows to repeat it. More significantly, he would be recklessly ignoring the tyrannical threats of a mullah regime that vows to “wipe Israel off the map.”
So if Netanyahu and our other leaders are under the impression that Israel cannot afford to wait much longer to see if diplomacy and sanctions will work, they cannot simply place the fate of Israel in the hands of the US as Jews have been forced to do for so long.
Not only do they have the right as heads of a sovereign state to take action, they have a moral obligation – to the nearly eight million citizens of Israel and to the generations of Jews over the centuries who tragically lost their lives because they lacked the means to defend themselves.