The Guardian
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Ogbodo: Netanyahu: Working To Stop Another Exodus


IT would take another Jew to understand clearly the point Benjamin Netanyahu made before a joint session of the United States Congress, last week, regarding Iran’s quest for nuclear capabilities. But that is if the rest of the world chooses to pretend about the psychology of the average Jew who has been conditioned by a hard-to-explain history of persecution to always remain vigilant and defensive. 

   He was saying that that unbroken history of persecution of the Jews terminated at the birth of the State of Israel in 1948 and nobody, including Iran, should think of restarting it. “The days of genocidal crime against the Jews are over” he stressed. His speech attracted different interpretations, depending on which side of the divide the interpreter stood. The White House described it as a piece of rhetoric that offered nothing fresh on a way forward out of the Iranian nuclear imbroglio. It was expected because the entire idea of a foreign head of state coming to address the American Congress on a knotty diplomatic issue without a role for President Barack Obama was more than a protocol issue; it was an affront on the American Presidency.

  Expectedly, Iran was also not amused. In describing the speech, the Iranian foreign minister said, “I don’t think trying to create tension and conflict helps anybody” even as talks between Iran and six world powers to reach an acceptable nuclear deal for the former ahead the March 24 deadline continued in Switzerland.” Marzieh Afkham, spokeswoman of the Iranian foreign ministry described the celebrated speech as “deceitful theatre play” and “continued lies of Netanyahu” on Iran’s peaceful nuclear programme, which had become “repetitive and sickening.”

   But far greater than this, more strain is being put in US-Israeli relations by this delicate art of striking a balance between what Iran wants and what Israel can allow in a nuclear development programme. Back home in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu struck the right chord with his Washington speech. Outside concerns that the circumstances under which the speech was delivered might have intensified the emerging coldness in the US-Israeli relationship, Netanyahu was hailed in most quarters as a hero. An Israeli former deputy defence minister, Danny Danon said Netanyahu “sounded the alarm for the survival of Israel.” He felt “very proud of our prime minister who said exactly what we feel;” that the deal to admit Iran into the privileged club of nuclear countries is a bad deal.

    Netanyahu said the deal “would all but guarantee that Iran gets nuclear weapons, lots of them.” And that every true Jew should be worried about a nuclear powered Iran, which has maintained a fundamental objective of annihilating Israel from the global political map. In a way therefore, Netanyahu wants to be ranked among the prophets posted by God at different epochs in the Jewish history to ensure the continued survival of the Jews on the face of the earth.

  To be sincere, I do not think Israel or Netanyahu would worry so much if Iran had been sounding like any other nation with nuclear capabilities. The country as a handful others in the Middle East wants Israel to exist, perhaps, in heaven and not on earth. That sounds too weighty to discountenance and Netanyahu is saying to allow Iran achieve nuclear capabilities is not too different from giving an assassin the gun with which to kill you. 

  The man is so frightened by the prospects of a nuclear powered Iran that he said Israel would act alone to stop Iran if it became necessary. The options according to him are not only slim but disturbingly unpalatable. That is, there will be trouble if Israel fails to act and peace will not prevail if Israel acts unilaterally. It is the devil’s option because either way, war is underlined and lives will be lost.

   Although he sounded tough and deviant, the Israeli leader was only telling the rest of the world, including the White House to view things from the perspective of Israel. For instance, if truly Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran Supreme Spiritual Leader twitted only last year calling for the annihilation of Israel, any Israeli leader should be worried. The current moderate posture of the incumbent Iranian President Hassan Rouhani does not and cannot assuage such worries. 

   If in the end Israel feels unconvinced about an ‘acceptable’ nuclear deal for Iran, it will most likely act the way it did in 1981 under Prime Minister Menachem Begin, when it attacked and destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor to stop Baghdad from acquiring nuclear capabilities. What cannot be projected and measured from the present stand point is the totality of the aftermath if Israel chooses to attack existing centrifuges in Iran to stem the country’s quest for nuclear power for whatever purposes.

    Israel does not have any means of telling if the Iranian spiritual leader is just joking or serious about his threat to blot out Israel from earth. Yet it cannot wait for all the issues to play out to weigh the threat. Although Iran has repeatedly said it is not seeking to produce bombs with its nuclear programme, Israel is informed by a horrible past not to take chances.

  Quite inexplicably, the persecution of the Jews through history had come very close to being a norm. From the days of the Pharaohs in Egypt to the totalitarian regime of Hitler in Germany, the Jews had been at the receiving end of their relationships with others. They had had their cities sacked by different armies and carted away to exile. Their unfortunate newborns had been slaughtered by ruthless kings. They had been and are still being discriminated against and persecuted for no other reason than that they are Jews.  

  They were blamed for every misfortune that befell others in the past. The Christians accused them of killing Jesus Christ and when the Germans failed in World War II, they blamed their defeat on the Jews. This actually created the basis for the anti-Semitic sentiments that ran wild in Germany and the pogrom that followed in which six million Jews were killed by the Nazists.  And for almost four centuries, between 1478 and 1834, the Jews had had a raw deal under what is today known in history as the Spanish Inquisition to ruthlessly push through the Catholic view point. Anything (Jewish tradition) that ran contrary to Catholic dogmatism was vanquished.   

   Indeed, it was to collect the Jews in a location they could call home after centuries of persecution in other countries that the State of Israel was created in 1948. But what was intended to solve the Jewish question (not in the sense of the Nazist Final Solution) has thrown forth more challenges than were ever contemplated by the powers that sponsored the creation of Israel. The Arab resistance to the imposition of Israel still continues till date even after all out wars in I948, 1967 and 1973 in attempts to settle the matter on the battle fields. The wars are still raging one way or the other. Both the Jews and Palestinian Arabs lay cultural and historical claim to the same territory. Both are traceable to the same patriarch, the Biblical Abraham or Ibrahim in the Holy Qur’ran.

   Thus, if the world is looking for any acceptable deal, it shouldn’t be a deal to create nuclear powers in a region that is already boiling over, but something to offer acceptable accommodation for the two sets of the descendants of Father Abraham or Ibrahim. It is only when that peaceful co-habitation is assured that Israel will not worry even if all the nations in the Middle East were to become nuclear powers.

  Right now, some quarters still wants Israel to pack somewhere. This calls for vigilance and it was the point Benjamin Netanyahu made to the American legislators. He needs assurances that the children of Israel shall not be forced on yet another winding exodus that may take 40 years or more in search of a promised land after the Iran nuclear deal has been perfected and Iran, per adventure, advances to become a nuclear power.

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