“Everyone, relax. Israel can live with the Iran deal.” This recent headline left me reeling and let me tell you why.
I normally set my cell phone to silent when I head to bed every night because I’m a fairly light sleeper. But Monday night was different. I fell asleep, tired from a long day at work, and forgot to silence my phone.
I also get alerts from the CNN app on my phone whenever there is breaking news. And, Monday night, I was awakened by an alert that read, “US negotiates a deal with Iran over nuclear program.” I did not fall back asleep.
Earlier that day, we had been on pins and needles at The Birmingham Jewish Federation, waiting for the news of a deal with Iran to break. We knew it was coming and that it probably wouldn’t be a deal that we wanted, but we hoped for the best — a deal that would hopefully snuff Iran’s nuclear weapons program and enhance global security. Relax? Hardly.
It is no secret that Iran’s leadership hates Israel and the US. How much more obvious can it get than the country’s supreme leader tweeting “Death to America” and “Death to Jews”? It also should be no secret that stopping Iran from creating a nuclear weapon isn’t just an Israeli problem, an American problem or a Jewish problem. It’s a WORLD problem.
That’s why relaxing isn’t an option when it comes to Iran. Though Congress may try to thwart the implementation of the agreement, President Obama has reminded us all of his executive power to veto Congress’ decision. We at The BJF appreciate the administration’s efforts to reach a deal with Iran, but we also recognize the pitfalls of this agreement.
Many knowledgeable people — especially Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — see the agreement promoted by President Obama as a historic mistake that is full of loopholes for Iran, damaging to Israel’s security and a pact that rewards the Iranian terror regime.
It is hard for me to wrap my head around how at odds the US government is with the Israeli government regarding this agreement because, as I mentioned above, this is not just an Israeli issue. Since Israel’s inception, the US has had a strong relationship with the world’s only Jewish state, a tiny sister democracy.
Though there have certainly been disagreements between the Israeli and US governments in the past, nothing has driven a wedge between them like the Iran agreement. And, at a time in our history when Israel is desperately needed by so many Jews around the world ready to leave where they are living, it truly is frightening to think that the US is not aligned with Israel on one of the most important security issues of our time.
In the past six months, through visits to France and Ukraine to learn more about Jewish needs, I have seen with my own eyes how much instability and uncertainty there is in the world today. Jewish communities around the globe are suffering in ways that I never could have imagined unless I had seen it for myself. Political turmoil, anti-Semitism and upheaval are plaguing our Jewish brothers and sisters in many parts of the world.
In France, a growing number of Jews, aided by funds raised by Federation, are preparing to move to Israel as anti-Semitic incidents occur throughout the country. Without Israel, which Iran seeks to destroy, these Jews would have nowhere to go. Without the US standing strong against the development of Iranian nuclear weapons, the chance that Israel’s existence is threatened increases immensely. After hearing the anguish of the French Jewish community on a fact-finding trip led by the Israel-based Jewish Agency just weeks after two terrorist attacks, I know how important it is that we secure and protect Israel’s future.
And, in Ukraine, a country rife with instability, violence and poverty, a growing number of Jews are leaving for Israel as well, also assisted by Federation funds. If you are a Ukrainian Jew, your future in that country is bleak, as I was told by members of the community during a recent trip there organized by Jewish Federations of North America. Conditions are deplorable and war is in their backyards. Many feel as though moving to Israel is their only hope for a future.
Jewish Federations are committed to helping these Jews get to Israel. But, what will we do if the security of Israel is threatened even more? What additional challenges will these Jews have to go through in their quest to live a peaceful Jewish life? I don’t even want to begin to imagine. The difficulties they and the other Israelis will face could be immense if the agreement, as many predict it will, results in Iran having nuclear weapons.
That’s why now, more than ever, we as Americans must advocate for a strong relationship with Israel and protection of Israel’s existence and national security. We all should contact our Members of Congress to express our thoughts about the deal with Iran. In the past, it has been easy to take our government’s support for Israel for granted. It has been easy to take our global security for granted, as well. Unfortunately, we can no longer do that.
I encourage you to not take anything for granted, especially our freedom, our security and our future. Even though I am just 25, I have seen, as a result of my trips to France and Ukraine, how fragile Jewish security and well-being can be. Though events seem up in the air right now, I can tell you one thing for certain: We at Federation will not be relaxing anytime soon. Please, don’t relax, either; our future depends on all of us.