Israel should distrust and act accordingly

Western leaders have been mentally disarmed by Iran. The annual chants of “death to America, death to Israel, and death to the Jews” of multitudes of Iranians in the streets of Tehran on Al-Quds Day has become so familiar to us over the last several decades that too many Western leaders have become desensitized. It is too often believed that such fanaticism cannot be taken seriously. These Twelver adherents have to belong to a special club of crazies that includes other insane types like Idi Amin and Muammar Gaddafi, or so this line of thinking goes.

Al-Quds Day is something like a sports event, not to be taken seriously, some officials apparently believe. Threats of destroying Israel are seen as just an Iranian fantasy that will never be attempted because, after all, the Persians may be crazy, but can they really be that stupid? Yes, in fact they can. There are many examples in history of totalitarian leaders being endowed with the most advanced forms of ignorance. How can we negotiate with representatives of a fanatical government that sees the United States as the Great Satan and Israel as the Little Satan?

If a threat is repeated enough times without actually being carried out, we eventually start to ignore it. The Islamic Republic threatens to destroy the Jewish state, but the American Administration says that we should pay attention to what they do, not necessarily to what they say. Since experience teaches us that people generally do what they say if given the means and the opportunity, we have to take the threats of rogue nations seriously.

The approach of reacting only to another nation’s actions would be feasible if the American intelligence community could see all and know all. Unfortunately, the attack on the World Trade Center proved that American intelligence is not omniscient.  A perpetrator of a surprise attack always has the advantage. Neither the United States, nor Israel can know everything and therefore cannot enjoy the luxury of reacting only to what Iran does. Threats must be taken seriously.

Iran is one of the worst state sponsors of terror. They funded Hamas and supplied Hezbollah with missiles, both of which rained fire and brimstone on the heads of Israeli civilians. More than 11,000 rockets were fired into Israel from Gaza after the Israeli disengagement in 2005 and it is estimated that Hezbollah currently has over 100,000 rockets aimed at Israel. During rocket fire on the Jewish state, coffee houses in Gaza and southern Lebanon were shown erupting into celebration and laughter as Israelis ran for bomb shelters like Chicken Littles under a falling sky.

There was a time in a bygone era when state-sponsored terror did not pay. Civilized societies were so appalled by intentional savage attacks against innocent civilians that nothing was gained on behalf of the terrorist cause. Now state-sponsored terror, threats to destroy America and Israel, and repeated attempts to build a nuclear weapon in order to be able to deliver on that threat will earn a rogue nation a seat at the negotiating table and concessions from the West.

Why can’t Western leaders learn that it’s impossible to deal rationally with irrational minds? Mass murder goes against the sensibility of everything that we consider human and humane. Too often, threats of genocide have been hard for civilized people to believe and take seriously. It’s somehow perceived as not quite real.

Nobody is that crazy or evil, the West often tells itself. We want to believe that just before the killing machine is turned on, human beings will come to their senses. Unfortunately, not all people are rational.

Hitler couldn’t see far enough into the future to see the outcome of World War II. He was not rational and could not act rationally. Hitler at times was even spun into comedy, as in Charlie Chaplin’s movie, The Great Dictator. Yet by the end of the Shoah and World War II, Hitler was no laughing matter.

The Iranians have learned that if they say the most radical and unacceptable things often enough, the Western mind eventually becomes numb. This is how Iran has disarmed Western leaders. Individuals are judged according to their present and past behavior. Foreign regimes should also be judged according to their record.

The West has never ceased to be naïve about the Mutt and Jeff routine or so-called good cop/bad cop strategy. In this scenario, one cop in an interrogation treats the prisoner poorly and then leaves the room. He is later replaced by a good cop who treats the prisoner with greater respect. The prisoner soon yields to the good cop because he doesn’t want a bad cop to return. Compared to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the American Administration sees Hassan Rouhani as the opportunity that cannot be missed.

If we knew that someone was planning the murder of someone we loved, we would do everything in our power to stop it. Yet we sit passively, letting Congress and the president decide for us. The experts know best? Let them figure it out? We should be screaming bloody murder.

Israel does not possess the extensive defenses enjoyed by the United States. So Israel, in particular, should not gamble its future on the ayatollahs’ ability to rationally find their way without eventually trying to act out their fanatical fantasy when they think the West least expects it. Based on Iran’s past behavior, Israel should distrust and act accordingly.

About the Author
Yoeli Kaufman earned his bachelor’s degree in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures and then worked as an analyst and Arabic translator for U.S. Army Intelligence. His master’s degree was in Educational Administration from Temple University in Philadelphia. Eli now regularly writes for the Jerusalem Post, the Times of Israel, and Diario Judío México.
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