Bird's-Eye View: Mr. President, meet Geffen, Shaked
By DANNY GROSSMAN
Israel saves more lives with its medical and technological breakthroughs than any other country. We trust you will see some of these modern miracle-workers when you arrive.
Shalom, President Obama! I am sure that you are busy with preparations for your visit.
As you can imagine, things have been more than a little hectic here recently as well.
Here are two names of people you might want to meet: Geffen and Shaked.
Allow me to explain. You touched the hearts of many Israelis when you visited Sderot in 2008, saying “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do everything to stop that, and would expect Israel to do the same thing.”
Yet just last November, I found your words eerily prophetic and highly ironic.
In the attached photo you can see our two-and- a-half-year-old granddaughter, Geffen, trying to distract her baby sister, Shaked, in the shelter where they slept during the attacks along with their mommy (while their daddy was away in the army). They live on a moshav near Sderot.
So here we found ourselves, barely four years from your last visit, once again dancing to the same insane music orchestrated by terrorists who are hellbent on taking innocent life, and who cynically fire from populated areas, using Gazans as human shields.
And while words cannot express our gratitude for your support of the Iron Dome missile defense system, let’s remember that despite its spectacular results, like any technology, it is not 100 percent foolproof. Try to imagine keeping track of an active three-year- old – even if she’s restricted to the house – knowing you have only 15 seconds to get her into the shelter when the siren goes off. Now try doing that while feeding, changing, or bathing her baby sister.
My friend Dr. Ron Lobel, deputy director of Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center, told me that young mothers were particularly subjected to unbelievable stress. Iron Dome saved many lives, but it cannot possibly negate the fear and anxiety that terrorists aim to sow among our population.
In November 2012 you recalled how personally you took this situation: “And I was reminded of what that would mean if those were my kids. Which is why as president, we funded an Iron Dome program to stop those missiles.”
Yet let’s be clear about Iron Dome. As genuine as your empathy and admirable as your support of Israel may be, Iron Dome is not simply about stopping missiles. Nor is it merely a case of the US stepping up to the plate on behalf of the Jewish state. Iron Dome is in the heart of the envelope of US interests. Its firepower goes far beyond the battlefield.
Iron Dome provides leaders, including both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and you personally, with precious time and maneuvering room.
Consider this barely hypothetical question: Had there been no Iron Dome (and the more than 90% of rockets reached their destination rather than be intercepted), could any Israeli leader have been able to withstand the demands of his people to wage a major offensive to remove the threat? Could any US president deny this legitimate need (in your own words “I would do everything to stop that, and would expect Israel to do the same thing”)? Simply stated, Iron Dome, and defensive systems like it, take the cards out of the hands of the terrorists and place them back in the hands of more rational players. So while you were right about supporting Iron Dome, the time has come to stop painting it in terms of a good deed America is doing for Israel.
You have consistently said the right things regarding Iran as well. During the same 2008 Sderot visit, you addressed the Iranian danger, saying, “A nuclear Iran would pose a grave threat and the world must prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
I will be delighted if nothing is said on this visit regarding Iran. The messages have been clearly stated. The only thing I would ask is that you consider how different the picture would look if Geffen and Shaked might be facing an atomic threat.
Again, the real threat to US interests might be expressed in similar pictures of their American cousins in New England, California and elsewhere who would quickly need to come to terms with nuclear devices in the hands of fanatical regimes or their proxies.
So please let’s keep our signals straight regarding both US and Israeli interests.
Obviously, the US will form its policy out of self-interest.
Fortunately, key Israeli interests are usually in the heart of the same envelope. Too many people think that my fellow Israelis and co-religionists in America judge American leaders by asking, “Is he/she good for the Jews?” I always ask, “Is he good for America?” I commend Geffen and Shaked’s auntie – my daughter – who took it upon herself to educate our six family ballot-holders on the issues in the last US election. She devoured hundreds of articles, YouTube clips and debate broadcasts to help us make our decision.
We may have argued about the candidates but never about how to vote: we all believe that whoever is best for America will be best for Israel. The strongest possible USA is what we all wish for.
The flip side to this is equally true: Israel at its best is in America’s primary interest.
Israel is a stable and democratic ally. It saves more lives with its medical and technological breakthroughs than any other country. We trust you will see some of these modern miracle-workers when you arrive.
So on behalf of Geffen, Shaked and their parents, thanks again for everything. We look forward to your visit.