Nov. 6, 2011
from the NRG website
Yitzchak Shamir was arguably the most determined and stubborn of
Israeli premiers since Ben Gurion. In the winter of 1991, during the
first Gulf War, Shamir was faced with an existential dilemma that is
very reminiscent of the quandary that we are facing now. True,
Saddam did not have nuclear weapons because Begin bombed his reactor
despite Peres' objections. But the Scud missiles that Saddam fired
at greater Tel Aviv could certainly have carried a chemical payload
that would have caused mass casualties.
Today, Ahmadinijad threatens Israel and simultaneously awakens the
ire of the Western nations, just as Saddam did 20 years ago. When
Saddam captured Kuwait, George Bush put together an international
coalition and attacked him.
What was the consideration that motivated the "intransigent" Shamir
to stay out of the fighting? We can safely assume that Israel
preferred to let others do its "dirty work". If the entire world was
fighting Iraq for its own reasons, what reason could there have been
to give Saddam the "proof" that this was a Zionist war, allowing him
to destabilize the already shaky coalition?
For his part, Saddam made no attempt to fight back. All that
interested him was to present himself as a warrior against Israel;
he focused his resources on firing Scud missiles at Tel Aviv. For
the first time since the War of Independence, Israel's civilian
population found itself under direct attack. Israel's citizens
became addicted to their sealed rooms, plastic sheets covering their
windows, gas masks and the voice of the IDF spokesman and his
"secret weapon" for trauma…a glass of water.
Twenty years later, we can say that Shamir made a strategically
deplorable decision, with repercussions more severe than the damage
done by the Yom Kippur War. The coalition forces did not prevent any
Scud missiles from being fired at Israel. In other words, nobody did
the "dirty work" for us. What did happen was that Israel's enemies
were no longer afraid to attack its civilian population. Israel's
deterrence factor took a severe blow.
Whoever expected some sort of benefit in exchange for our
self-restraint got the opposite instead. Israel did not understand
that when a country deposits is existential battles in the hands of
others, its existence becomes something for which it must pay. In no
time, Shamir found himself under heavy US pressure. He was dragged
to Madrid, forced to indirectly recognize the PLO and planted the
seeds that eventually sprouted into the Oslo Accords and the
thousands of soldiers and citizens who have paid for them with their
Shamir also paid a personal price for his mistake. America
interfered with the elections in Israel and delayed loan guarantees
that Shamir had requested to help absorb the masses of Russian Jews
immigrating to Israel. Yitzchak Rabin won the premiership by a slim
majority. Immediately after his victory, the Americans went forward
with the loan guarantees.
Let us return to our current situation: Ahmadinijad, like Saddam, is
preparing to destroy Israel. Netanyahu, like Shamir, is hoping that
the world will, for its own reasons, do the dirty work for us and
fight our existential war.
The economic and political sanctions against Iran have not worked
and it looks like we are nearing the moment of truth. The question
is, is it better if Israel attacks Iran or if the West does so? From
Shamir's mistake we can conclude that greater Tel Aviv will be on
the receiving end of the entire payload that Iran can muster. The
second lesson we learn from Shamir is that the Western coalition
will not be overly concerned with the threat hanging over Israel's
head. As we all remember, not one Scud missile was destroyed before
it was launched.
If Israel does not attack Iran and leaves the work for others, our
position will be further compromised. First, because a passive
Israel will have no power of deterrence against Iran. Second,
because it is technically more difficult to defend oneself from a
The most serious lesson that we must learn from Shamir, however, is
that the question mark hovering today over Israel's right to exist
will turn into a large exclamation point. The West will extort
Israel to pay dearly for an attack that it could have carried out
more effectively by itself.
The last option, also highly possible, is that nobody will attack –
neither Israel nor the West. This is actually the worst scenario of
all, because a gun that appears in the first act will always shoot
by the third act. Nuclear weapons in the hands of the ayatollahs
will be activated in the second act, and it doesn't look like
plastic sheets and water will help this time.
Be sure to check
out the latest edition of Tomorrow Magazine on Jewish Renewal. Discover
our concrete proposals for renewed Jewish life in Israel: Shabbat,
justice, community and education. We'd be glad to hear your
suggestions, as well!
Shabbat: A Cultural Time-Out
Every individual in Israel must be allowed to keep the Shabbat as he
sees fit. We believe that there is a deep need for the
non-observant, the traditional and the religious Jews in Israel to
respect each other's Shabbat.
Renewing the Community
Israel was a tribal nation from its very beginning, starting from
the 12 sons of Jacob who founded the 12 tribes of Israel.
Justice: Gradual Application of Jewish Law
Current estrangement toward Jewish law creates an anomaly: an entire
nation with a glorious tradition of justice turns its back on its
Education: Cultural Upgrade
Currently, Israel's educational system does not respond to the
longing of the vast majority of Israelis to connect to the Jewish
ethos. The main reason for this is that the responsibility for
education is placed on the State and not on the parents.
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