Sep

21

 Tuesday night marks the start of Yom Kippur, the holiest of days among Jews. Hearing Kol Nidre reminds me not only of a time for introspection but also of a moment to think about family and friends with whom I've been in contact with during the prior month wishing them best wishes on the new year. Usually in talking with friends and family in Israel (thanks to Skype for facilitating free face-to-face internet calls), I hear all the news of the family and often some bemoaning of one thing or another ("that corrupt Prime Minister" or "what's so complicated about building a road?" or "The children are thriving, even though they are in kibbutz in the middle of nowhere in the Negev"). These range from adamant Peace Now backers ("why don't the Palestinians begin a non-violent movement like Gandhi") to the far right ("I knew Begin was going to betray us"). In one case, I have a cousin who framed an enlarged copy of the Dry Bones cartoon about Begin lecturing Carter about the US withdrawal from its "occupied territories") (The link shows both the original and an updated version of Netanyahu and Obama–plus ca change…).

I always hear about what's going on with the family, sometimes about a missed article in Globes or TheMarker, and sometimes a sense of the political climate. This year was a little different. I heard lots about family and friends (lots of pregnancies during the past year, and in one instance, triplets born this past weekend). I also heard some about Iran. I was surprised to hear as much as I did from across the political spectrum. One friend, a very conservative (she's the one whose quote about Begin I cited before) retired IDF colonel, commented that if Israel attacks Iran, it will be likely be suicidal but "we have to do what we need to do to defend ourselves"). Another, a fairly liberal cousin (he thinks Israel was stupid to keep the PA from developing an economy), is hopeful that an attack can be avoided, but he's also a realist ("Obama is well intended, but let's face it, Iran wants to destroy us, and given even half-a- chance, it will"). I heard a chorus of concern about Iran, and also the general view that Iran was very much of an existential threat to Israel.

The sense I got was that Israelis across the political spectrum are feeling lonely. Some are more trusting of Obama than others, but for the most part, they don't see the US going to war to deal with Iran. For a couple of folks, the recent decision by the Olympics not to have some moment of silence during the opening ceremonies merely "confirmed" their view of an isolated Israel. Developments with Egypt have been unsettling, and the recent death of the American Ambassador to Libya raised even more concern. There are now reports being published about likely responses from Egypt and Jordan if Israel attacks Iran. Many of those I spoke with indicated an expectation of such a response.

What strikes me as curious, though, is that this article is appearing now. Does anyone doubt that Israel would deal first with a perceived existential threat and then deal with the consequences afterwards? Neither Egypt nor Jordan can pulverize Tel Aviv in less than an hour. On the other hand, for whose benefit, then, is such a story being published? Not the Israelis–they seem to understand this already (and this was before the story was published). The Arabs? Much of Egypt wants to cancel the peace treaty with Israel and the rest are insistent on a renegotiation of the current treaty. The American public? I haven't observed a groundswell of support for any military action in the US by the Israelis, never mind the US. So I'm a bit challenged to figure out why this story is appearing now. Those in Israel that I've spoken with during the past month or so seem to have already factored it into their thinking. Qui bene?

Then there was another story which provides nothing no one doesn't already know. Is this is for domestic Iranian consumption? Perhaps. We know the Iranian economy has taken a hit with the sanctions. Perhaps Iran is taunting Israel and the US? That may not seem logical, but when talking about Iran, there is little that is.

In any case, the Iran watch continues. And my relatives and friends are not only worried about Iran, they are also untrusting of the US to do anything about the Iranian nuclear endeavor. At the same time, Rome isn't that much further from Tehran than is Tel Aviv (2600 miles vs 1000 miles). Is Obama naive enough to think that a nuclear Iran would not hesitate to threaten Italy in its bid to get sanctions lifted? On the other hand, is the Iran nuclear program sufficiently advanced that an attack would have no ability to stop it or slow it down significantly?

For all those celebrating Yom Kippur, have an easy fast.


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