I thought of this experience as I begin to analyze the recent agreement brokered with Iran over its nuclear ambitions. President Obama does not appear to understand Israeli (and for that matter, Jewish) fears.
Yossi Klein Halevi remarked in an article, "Israel's Freakout, Explained":
During the first Obama administration, the urgent Israeli question was: Is he is a friend of the Jewish state? That question was largely resolved for many Israelis during the President’s visit to Israel last March, when he won over much of the public by affirming the Jewish roots in the land of Israel and the indigenousness of Israel in the Middle East, as well as Israel’s past efforts to make peace.Israel lives, and thrives, in a terrifying neighborhood. It must remain forever vigilant. It must be strong and resolute. I have never known its fears. Yet they are part of my people's history.
Now, though, Israelis are asking this: After eight years of President Obama, will the Middle East be a safer or more dangerous region for Israel?
For most Israelis the answer is self-evident. The turning point came this summer, when Obama hesitated to enforce his own red line over Syria. That was the moment that he lost the trust of the Israeli public on Iran.
Still I wonder about Prime Minister Netanyahu's insistence that any deal with Iran is akin to Chamberlain's accord with Nazi Germany. If we insist on this comparison there can only be one resolution to today's conflict. History can, and should, be a teacher. But today is not 1938. The past is but one lens. The future cannot necessarily be seen more clearly through the past. History is an imperfect prism.
Also writing in The New Republic, Ben Birnbaum, offers a different perspective, "The Iran Deal is Better Than Nothing--Even for Israel":
Another top Israeli security figure recently noted to me that if the deal taking shape in Geneva were to forestall a nuclear-armed Iran for a couple of years, it would be almost as effective as an Israeli military strike—with none of the consequences, of course. Compared to the current situation, the Geneva deal does not clear that bar. But compared to where the Iranian program would be six months from now without a deal, it could come close.Make no mistake. Iran continues to agitate for Israel's destruction. Fear grows in my heart. We must remain wary of Iranian promises and even suspect of their intentions. Does that mean though that every effort to reach an accord is doomed? Can a compromise with our enemies buy us a measure of security?
I want to remain hopeful. Yet I remain afraid. I take counsel from the prophet Isaiah, "Say to the anxious of heart, 'Be strong, fear not...' (Isaiah 35)
I reread his words. "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped...."
History is an imperfect lens. Yet I draw faith from its waters.
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,Sorrow and sighing flee. Fear and trembling banished from our hearts. And the land might rest secure.
And come with shouting to Zion,
Crowned with joy everlasting.
They shall attain joy and gladness,
While sorrow and sighing flee.