Efraim Halevey in Yedioth: Shifting Responsibility

Shifting Responsibility

Oped by Efraim Halevy

Published August 6, 2015 in Yedioth Ahronoth, p. 28 (Hebrew edition), translation by Israel News Today (INT)

The question that has been in the air ever since Prime Minister Netanyahu began his efforts to cancel the nuclear agreement with Iran has been answered: if the US drops out of the agreement, the agreement will be completely canceled. This means that Iran will be free to resume its nuclear activity—the installation in Arak, for example, which is supposed to be completely neutralized according to the agreement, will resume its plutonium track in tandem with its enrichment track. Moreover, the international sanctions regime will collapse and only the US will continue to impose them while Russia and China will resume supplying weapons to Iran full steam and Moscow will again be able to help build the Iranian anti-missile systems as it did in the past. This will be the immediate and tangible cost. And there will be more to come.

The prime minister’s passionate call on US Jews on Tuesday to enlist in the battle against President Obama, in practice places the responsibility for the State of Israel’s fate on them. The Jews are being called to shoulder  pan-Jewish responsibility to prevent the worst of all: if they don’t force their representatives in Congress to shoot down the agreement—Israel will be in existential danger.

I disagree with this approach. American Jewry is not obligated to save Israel—the Israeli public and its governments have always been responsible, throughout the generations, for the fate of the Jewish people. Ever since we gained independence, Israel has been a place that promises life to any Jew in distress and to any Jewish community in danger. We have proven our ability to act on this in the past. Israel today is the strongest country in the Middle East—not just thanks to its security establishment but also because of the original thinking and creativity in the spheres of science, technology and intelligence, which have no comparison anywhere in the world.

If I understand this, then certainly the prime minister, the security cabinet ministers and the members of the intelligence subcommittee must. Israel’s existence is assured and Netanyahu is supposed to project faith and pride in its achievements and abilities, with which he is more familiar than anyone else.  Based on this faith in the establishment, which he heads, he must also create faith in Israel’s eternalness and not project fears from the distant past to awaken US Jewry leaders with cries of “help.”

This manner of action is liable to cost both Israel and American Jews a high price: it would be an historic mistake to push the Jews into a corner and force them to choose between the trust and respect that they owe their president and heeding the helpless cries coming from Jerusalem. Furthermore, the tone of the campaign that Netanyahu has launched against the agreement basically undermines the foundations of Israel’s deterrence as a strong and enduring country.

The call to American Jews was also made against the backdrop of an issue that has recently again come to the fore: the growing alienation between large parts of American Jews toward Israel because of the [Israeli] rabbinical establishment’s positions and its control in the political domain. The prime minister canceled the arrangements that were made in the matter of conversion just prior to the last elections. His call to the Jews to rush to Israel’s help—at a time when the very Jewishness of large portions of the American public is being denied by Israel—therefore only intensifies the rift among the Jewish diaspora precisely at a time when the prime minister is demanding to unite the ranks.

A hint as to what can be expected in the coming months can be found in the article last week by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in which he said that now that the Iranian problem has been resolved, it is time to address the problem of the Israeli nuclear program. Israel will need solid support from Obama on this issue in the international arena, since it is outside Congress’s purview.

At the UN’s pentennial 2015 NPT Review Conference, the Egyptians spearheaded a call to start holding talks ahead of declaring the Middle East a nuclear weapons free zone. A few months ago, the prime minister phoned Secretary of State John Kerry and thanked him for the American aid that had been decisive in blocking that initiative. So before we intensify the campaign in America—we should stop so that this does not hurt us down the line.