H. A. Goodman

No Shmuley Boteach, it’s not alright for Bibi to offend Obama

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach recently wrote a piece titled Bibi, nevermind offending Obama. It is the antithesis of my recent Jerusalem Post article, Why Bombing Iran would be a strategic mistake for Israel and America, where I cite three U.S. officials who explain that striking Iran would merely set them back “two or three years.” Essentially, one would have to continually bomb Iran every three years in order to even have a chance at completely ending their nuclear ambitions. Boteach also ignores the fact that Mossad chief Tamir Pardo has already stated a nuclear Iran would not be an “existential threat”:

“Does Iran pose a threat to Israel? Absolutely. But if one said a nuclear bomb in Iranian hands was an existential threat, that would mean that we would have to close up shop and go home. That’s not the situation. The term existential threat is used too freely.”

Like many staunch conservatives on the subject of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Boteach states that “One holocaust is quite enough” and paints an apocalyptic future. It’s a pity that Boteach didn’t cite Pardo’s quote in his recent piece, or the Mossad chief’s statement that “The term existential threat is used too freely.”

The repercussions to the global economy of continually bombing an OPEC nation, the geopolitical impact on Iraq and Afghanistan (guess which country is located between both), and the financial cost of a striking Iran are all issues that Rabbi Boteach fails to mention in his article. In addition, world renowned international relations scholar Kenneth Waltz is quoted as predicting a different future from Boteach:

Most US, European, and Israeli commentators and policymakers warn that a nuclear- armed Iran would be the worst possible outcome of the current standoff. In fact, it would probably be the best possible result: the one most likely to restore stability to the Middle East.

To assume that Iran, a country that once bought weapons from Israel during the Iran-Contra scandal (at the behest of the U.S.) isn’t more pragmatic than it is suicidal, simply ignores history.

Since Israel actually has nuclear weapons, any hypothetical strike by Iran would also lead to the destruction of Iran. Like North Korea and other rogue regimes, Iran is indeed a threat to the region, but hasn’t given anyone indication that it is willing to trade 80 million Iranian citizens for the destruction of Israel. Rather than spouting paranoid hyperbole like Shmuley Boteach, Kenneth Waltz takes a more realistic approach to a nuclear Iran. Considered one of the “giants” in the field of international relations, Waltz goes on to explain that when India, Pakistan and even North Korea obtained nuclear arsenals, their foreign policies were restrained by the magnitude of these weapons.

Boteach also makes disrespectful statements like “Perhaps the Obama administration should threaten President Bashar Assad to stop slaughtering his people in Syria and actually, this time, do something about it.” The theme of his article, in addition to urging the United States to stop Iran’s nuclear program, is found in the following sentiments:

The implications of a nuclear Iran for the world are far greater than such simple considerations as the wounded ego of the leader of the free world or a breach of diplomatic protocol…

I, for one, have become fatigued with the continuous threats issued to the press by “undisclosed sources” in the administration against Israel…

That Prime Minister has the responsibility to do everything in his power to protect the Jewish people in Israel from a nuclear annihilation.

Ignoring the fact that Pakistan and North Korea already possess nuclear weapons (I don’t recall anyone referring to North Korea as sane or rational), six other countries including Israel are now nuclear powers. If India and Pakistan haven’t had a nuclear war, and North Korea hasn’t bombed South Korea (all of these countries have made statements calling for the total annihilation of their enemies), the chances that Iran would instantly commit suicide simply to destroy another country doesn’t correlate to reality.

While he’s an accomplished author and popular media personality, Boteach is wrong about the importance of not offending Obama and urging further U.S. military involvement in the region. I love Israel just as much as Boteach, but I’m also well aware of America’s importance to Israel’s survival. To conflate a future Holocaust if the U.S. isn’t nudged incessantly by Bibi to strike Iran is pure folly.

First, people like the author of Kosher Sex and others with similar world views completely ignore the cost of two decade-long counterinsurgency wars upon the U.S. Armed Forces. After 4,489 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq and 2,356 U.S. soldiers died in Afghanistan, close to 1 million U.S. soldiers injured in both wars, and a cost that will easily exceed $6 trillion, the last thing American soldiers and their families need is Shumley Boteach, Bibi, or anyone else pushing for yet another American war.

Yes, I had my Bar-Mitzvah in Jerusalem and care deeply for Israel, but I also realize that America simply isn’t in a position to strike Iran, or engage in another unilateral war of choice. If anything, allies of America shouldn’t interfere with the foreign policy goals of a sitting president, regardless if they aren’t conservative enough for a man like Bibi Netanyahu. As Hatnuah chairwoman Tzipi Livni eloquently states, “A responsible prime minister who first thinks of the good of his country’s citizens does not do such a thing… A responsible prime minister would know to work with the president of the United States — with any president — and protect our most important interests.”

The indignation would be heard around the world from people like Boteach if Obama went to the Knesset and sided with Livini over Bibi on Israeli foreign policy.

Boteach’s complete disregard for the thousands of American’s who’ve died in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as hundreds of thousands injured in these wars, is exemplified by his challenge to Obama to threaten Assad and “this time, do something about it.” Again, he fails to realize that Obama has recently sent over 3,000 soldiers back to Iraq and the Pentagon just recently deployed 400 Americans to train the Syrian rebels. As for our ever growing military presence in terms of special forces, states that U.S. Special Operations forces were deployed to 133 countries (70% of the nations on the planet) in 2014. In terms of our air campaign that included hundreds of airstrikes, it has cost the U.S. over $1 billion dollars and ISIS is still entrenched in large swaths of Syria and Iraq. If anything, we should be scaling back our military presence, considering that Iraq and Afghanistan have failed to achieve their original objectives and the U.S. simply can’t afford perpetual war in the Middle East.

If anyone wonders why Obama is annoyed with Bibi or anyone else throwing a wrench in negotiations with Iran, it’s because an American president isn’t obligated to see things in the same manner as the head of state of another country. It’s the reason a Forbes article is titled Bibi Netanyahu — aka ‘The Republican Senator From Israel’ — May Have Made A Fatal Political Mistake.  It would be nice if people like Shmuley Boteach just once acknowledged the number of American soldiers who’ve died in Iraq and Afghanistan, the ongoing military operations by the U.S. that are orchestrated daily, and the tremendous cost on America from two recent wars before advocating that America follow a course of action that runs contrary to the goals of its current administration.

Yes Mr. Boteach, Bibi should concern himself with offending Obama, because American public opinion isn’t guaranteed forever. A less overt and obnoxious approach than siding with a rival political party when presenting Israel’s security objectives would be good for everyone. One can simultaneously care deeply for Israel and want it to flourish forever while at the same time acknowledging that America is more important to Israel’s survival than Israel is to America’s survival. I’m not “self-hating” because I’m willing to comprehend this reality.

I’m also willing to see through Shmuley Boteach’s maniacal diatribes and the paranoid predictions of right-wing observers. Israel is one of the greatest allies of the U.S. and an amazing country, but to utilize the notion of another Holocaust in order to encourage the U.S. to alter its foreign policy goals is irresponsible and counterproductive. It’s also morally reprehensible and shamefully utilizes the memory of the six million souls who perished in the real Holocaust, but that’s another issue I’ve already addressed.

About the Author
H. A. Goodman is an author and columnist published in numerous publications and websites.