Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Another Tightrope Act


 Another Tightrope Act

US President Obama is eager to avoid a military confrontation with Iran.  It is clear that his re-election is on his mind with regard to this.  And so, in a very recent CBS interview he said:
"Any kind of additional military activity inside the Gulf is disruptive and has a big effect on us. It could have a big effect on oil prices..."
Ah, oil prices.  Increased prices would adversely affect the US economy, would they not?  And economic recovery is a linchpin of his campaign.
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But in the same interview, he said that Israel was "rightly" concerned about what will happen with Iran.
Here is his nod to Israel supporters.  And he followed this line of thinking with more:
"My number one priority continues to be the security of the United States, but also the security of Israel, and we are going to make sure that we work in lockstep as we proceed to try to solve this, hopefully diplomatically."
Lockstep, my foot.  Word is that if we do hit Iran, we won't give the US more than a few hours notice, for reasons that are obvious.
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No question that the president of the US must be concerned with US interests first, but he should not pretend to be concerned with Israeli security when in fact this is not the case: There is a wide divergence between what Israeli leaders know clearly to be in Israel's security interest and what Obama perceives to be in America's best interest.
"Perceives" is the operative word here.  What Obama perceives is that the US is best served if he is re-elected, and so, to that end, he'll sacrifice a great deal.  Including Israeli security interests.
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But that's just for starters.  Because the fact of the matter is that Obama is also prepared to sacrifice what's best for US security for that "greater good" of a win in the election. 
He pretends to address this, saying that he doesn't believe that Tehran has the "intentions or capabilities" to attack the United States.  Meaning, of course, that it is just Israel's problem.
A fairly incredible statement.
Just days ago, at a world conference on the "Arab Spring," Iran's supreme leader, the Ayatollah Khomeini, told a cheering audience that, "In light of the realization of the divine promise by almighty God, the Zionists and the Great Satan [America] will soon be defeated."  The Islamic awakening in the region, he explained has delivered several blows to the enemies of Islam.  All Muslims remain united in standing against the "evil hegemony of the Zionists and the Americans."
This is hardly a unique statement from an Iranian leader.  The Iranian theme of the US as the "Great Satan" is fairly ubiquitous.  So much for Tehran not having intentions of attacking the US. 
Obama is a fool to pretend these things are not being said. But he seems to exhibit a particular propensity for blithely ignoring the obvious.
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As to capabilities: Surely Obama knows, just as Israeli military intelligence knows, and the readers of my posts know, that Iran is working on a solid-fuel powered missile that would have sufficient range to reach the US.  Not a reality today, but there's always tomorrow.  It ill becomes the Americans to be complacent in this regard -- imagining themselves so far away as to be safe from attack.
Besides which, there are other ways for Iran to hit the US: with terrorist attacks inside the country, attacks on US personnel outside the country, and cyber-attacks of some considerable import.
In particular, it behooves the US to take more seriously the growing influence of the Iranian proxy Hezbollah in Latin America. 
See "Latin American: Iran's New Front Against the US":
"[On] January 30, 2012, former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) stated that, 'When President Ahmadinejad recently toured the capitals of Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Ecuador, it was not a form of cultural diplomacy; it was primarily to increase the tempo of preparations for the war against America'.. (Emphasis added)
"In 2007, a[n]...announcement was made by Ahmadinejad about the opening of Iran Air’s new Tehran to Caracas link, except that those flights do not accept open bookings, as transport for entrepreneurs or sightseers surely would.  No, these planes are most likely carrying bad actors from the likes of Hezbollah, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Guard’s Quds Force...
"Also considered is the possibility that the Tehran-Caracas flights are being used to transport weapons and Pasdaran – Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRCG) officers – to Venezuela in order to strengthen Chavez’s grip on Venezuela and transform it into a potential threat to the U.S. by installing long range missiles in Venezuela that can reach the U.S..." (Emphasis added)
And so Obama is a fool twice over.
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It has been announced that Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz has chosen Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel to become Commander of the Air Force when Maj. Gen. Ido Nehushtan steps down in April. 
  
Eshel    Source: IDF Spokesperson
This announcement has attracted a great deal more attention than would normally be the case because of the role that the commander of the Air Force will play in any attack on Iran. 
He would not be charged with making the final decision.  However that final decision, to be made at the highest political levels, would depend upon his perception that such an operation is feasible.  If the head of the Air Force were to deliver the message that he believes it cannot be done, this would effectively end further discussion.  And if the decision is made to go ahead, his role would be pivotal.
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In light of this, I was particularly delighted by the following report on Eshel from the JPost:
"On September 4, 2003, Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel served as the lead pilot in one of the Israel Air Force’s most memorable missions – a flight over the Auschwitz death camp in Poland.
"Under the agreement with the Polish government, the IAF F-15s were supposed to fly high above Auschwitz, and way out of sight.
"The day of the flight though, Eshel convened the other pilots and announced that they were going to fly below the clouds so they could be seen by the IDF officers who would be holding a ceremony along the train tracks below.
"'We listened to the Polish for 800 years,' Eshel was quoted as telling the other pilots at the time. 'Today, we don’t have to listen anymore.'"
Right on!  This is the sort of attitude Israel desperately needs today and I find this story reassuring.
See here the video footage of that magnificent flyover at Auschwitz, which includes the broadcast voice of General Eshel pledging from the skies over the death camp that the Air Force of Israel will be the shield of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.
Amen v'amen!
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A shift now to another issue.
Recently, Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar announced a program of tours to acquaint students with sites of Jewish heritage.  This curriculum had been available to schools in the Jerusalem school district, but was now being provided across the country.  In particular, there was a focus on a on-compulsory program called 'Ascending to Hevron," that would bring students to visit the Machpela (the Tomb of the Patriarchs).  To date, some 2,000 secular and 1,000 religious high school students have participated.
Now 260 teachers have drafted a letter saying they would refuse to participate in the program for visiting Hevron -- which is in Judea, south of Jerusalem, as "it is a manipulative use of pupils and teachers, who will be forced to become political pawns."
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I find this fascinating.  Visiting Hevron is conceptualized as a political act, but refusing to bring students to this ancient site is not? 
In point of fact, Hevron transcends politics: It is the most ancient of sites connected to Jewish heritage: mentioned in the Torah, the Machpela belongs to the Jewish people by virtue of its purchase by our father Avraham.  But these teachers advocate denying Jewish students exposure to it.  I can only assume that they fear that such students, once exposed to this sacred place, might think twice about the propriety of relinquishing "the West Bank" to the Palestinian Arabs.
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Minister Sa'ar is handling this well.  Today he told Israel Radio that the only real critique of this program is that it wasn't instituted 40 years ago.
 
Sa'ar  Source: Hebron.com
What he was referring to is the fact that under the eye of a series of left-wing education ministers over the years, the Jewish connection to the land was shamefully denied or downplayed in secular state schools.
There was a time when secular Israelis knew the Tanach (Bible) and understood the connection of our texts and history to the land.  Ben Gurion was a quintessential example of this.  But thanks in good part to these left-wing ministers, such is no longer the case.   It is nothing short of a tragedy that many Israeli young people just don't know.
"I didn't receive any protest letter, their letter was sent to Haaretz to serve their campaign against us," Sa'ar said, "One teacher charged me of Zionist indoctrination. You see? Being Zionist is now an accusation." (Emphasis added)
And so, bravo to Gideon Sa'ar. 
I ask you please to send him a very brief note, congratulating him for instituting the program "Ascending to Hevron."  Tell him that you support his efforts to teach the Jewish students of the State about Jewish heritage that transcends political issues.
If you are an Israeli citizen, mention this, and forward this to other Israelis who also might contact him.  If you are a member of Likud, share that information as well, please.
There is news regarding the "reconciliation" of Fatah and Hamas.  I continue to view this process with a dubious eye.  But now there are some new wrinkles.  Hopefully tomorrow we'll look at this.
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© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.