Editor’s note: This post was written in response to an op-ed we recently published by Eliana Glogauer, an American Orthodox Jew currently in Israel for a gap year program. Neither her op-ed nor this response to it is anything but the opinion of their respective authors.Eliana Glogauer’s op-ed “Obama – Iran, not Israel, is your enemy“ got me thinking, so I’d like to offer my thoughts here (read her piece first). Toward the beginning of her op-ed, she writes:
While American college freshmen learn how to read and analyze articles about weapons and warfare, 18-year-old Israeli soldiers are trained in how to protect their families and friends. It is not fair for the rest of the world to judge Israel for doing what it takes to survive.
I agree with Eliana that there’s a huge difference between my life and those of my Israeli peers, with whom I just spent 10 days on Birthright. But I’m frustrated with the notion that that difference prevents me from voicing my opinion on the conflict. An analogy: I argue about Chinese trade policy, European austerity, and labor intimidation in South America. I haven’t been to most of these countries, haven’t met peers who live there, and don’t study their societies in depth. Yet I have strong opinions on many things that they do.
Now, when I meet someone who has real experiences with one of these countries, I try my best to be forthcoming about what I don’t understand and to learn from that person’s experiences. But I’m not going to sit on my hands until that happens. I’m going to try to educate myself and continue to advocate for what I believe is right. I doubt that Eliana would be pleased if asked to govern all her other political conversations by the rules she prescribes here.
Eliana is also concerned that a) Iran is about to acquire a nuclear weapon; b) Barack Obama doesn’t care, is doing nothing to prevent it from happening, and is condemning Israel more strongly than previous presidents and c) that Israel must therefore carry out a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. Eliana claims that the IAEA’s November 18th report [PDF] states “that Iran currently has sufficient fuel to produce four nuclear weapons.” I can’t find this anywhere in the report. It does make clear that the IAEA has “serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme.” No one is denying that Iran’s nuclear ambitions are real or dangerous. But the evidence suggests that we are nowhere near the ticking time bomb scenario where Iran is actually assembling nuclear weapons, much less the advanced systems capable of delivering them.
Counter to Eliana’s argument that Israel is being “raked over the coals,” President Obama has said time and time again that he will not tolerate Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. In fact, he even recommitted to this position in his State of the Union address:
Let there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal.
But Eliana’s right that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s hawkish rhetoric on Iran has faced some strong pushback. The trouble is, that pushback has largely come from senior Israeli military and governmental officials, who believe that a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities (which Eliana calls a “Jack Bauer” move that would “save the Middle East from certain destruction”) is an absolutely terrible idea. Meir Dagan, the former head of Mossad (that would be the Jack Bauer-esque Israeli secret service that would presumably save the world in our doomsday scenario), calls an Israeli military strike on Iran ”the stupidest thing I have ever heard. He says that such a strike would give “Iran the best possible reason to continue the nuclear program.”
Furthermore, and with all due respect to Eliana, the notion that President Obama has made a personal quest out of castigating Israel for settlement activity is absolutely and completely false. Every single U.S. president since Lyndon Johnson has had the same policy: settlements are (at best) counterproductive to the peace process and should be stopped for this reason alone, or (at worst) are illegal under international law. So when Eliana argues:
…Obama has chosen to keep the focus on the actions of a country that is only interested in doing what it considers best for its citizens and whose actions are not currently endangering lives.
I take issue with the phrase “chosen to keep the focus,” because it implies that he’s doing something different from his predecessors.
Eliana also implies here that Israel’s actions in the occupied territories are not endangering lives. But what about Mustafa Tamimi? What about Jawaher Abu Rahmah? What about the 10-year old Ahmed Moussa, killed by IDF security forces in a confrontation with protesters at the security barrier?
What about the millions of Palestinians who live under occupation every day? Are their lives not endangered by checkpoints, raids and searches? They are people too; their lives and well-being should at the very least be acknowledged in this discussion.
I, for one, am glad that there is one country in our world that is willing to do what needs to be done, in order to ensure the long-term safety of the international public.
I remain entirely unconvinced that bombing an unstable country in the already volatile Middle East is really going to ensure the long-term safety of the international public. I suspect that solving the conflict and allowing the Palestinians self-determination is the only way to really create long-term stability for Israel. That’s why, rather than being angry at President Obama for pushing Israel to engage in peace talks (and castigating them for expanding settlements, which derail the peace process), I wish he were doing more.
I look forward to a response from Eliana.