Stuart Weinblatt

The Speech the President Should Have Given

The Speech the President Should Have Given

In the aftermath of the unfortunate killing of food aid workers in Gaza the president could have used this as an opportunity to calm the situation. Here is what he could have and should have said:

“My fellow Americans, I, like many of you am deeply troubled by the accidental killing of seven workers from World Central Kitchen in Gaza by an Israeli strike.  I say accidental because I was assured that this was not an intentional targeting.  I have spoken with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and members of my team, including the Secretaries of State and Defense, our National Security Advisor have all been in touch with their counterparts in Israel.

In every one of those conversations without prompting from us, even before we said anything, Israeli leaders expressed their deep and sincere regret for what happened and took full responsibility.  They promised me they would undertake a full and thorough investigation of the incident, and that they will be taking measures to ensure that something like this does not happen again.  They told us that the people who made the decision to bomb the aid convoy will be held accountable and appropriately disciplined.  And we have been reassured at the highest levels that Israel is going to do everything it can to increase the amount of humanitarian aid and food going into Gaza.

I could not have asked for any more than this on the part of the Israelis.

In fact, I have seen reports that more food is going into Gaza than ever before.  The problem is that Hamas, the terrorist organization which started this war and which still governs Gaza uses the distribution of food as a weapon, and won’t let it get to the poor people who deserve and need it.

Folks, there is a reason why there is an old saying, (probably older than me), that “War is Hell.”  It is.

I am reluctant to say this, because I was kind of hoping everyone would forget it, but I was reminded by my aides and advisers that we had something very similar happen in the final weeks of our operations in Afghanistan just a few years ago.  We tracked an aid worker’s car for 8 hours, because the car was seen at a compound used by ISIS and our surveillance drone saw men loading what we thought were explosives into a car.  It turned out to be containers of water.  We wound up killing an aid worker and nine members of his family, one of whom was only two years old.

These things happen in the fog of war.

I want the American people to know that I know the Israeli people.  I know their leaders.  I know their values.  What happened pains them more than you can imagine.  That is because they, like us, value life.  This terrible event is not indicative of their values.  It was a mistake, an aberration, not the norm.

They are fighting an enemy that hides behind civilians.

They are fighting an enemy that goes underground into the tunnels they built with the billions of dollars we and other countries around the world have given them so their leaders can be safe, while leaving their people exposed.  Hamas uses hospitals, schools and mosques and homes to store their arsenal of weapons, knowing that Israel will do everything it can to limit casualties and loss of the lives of non-combatants.

The ratio of how many non-combatants are killed for every militant or terrorist they take out is the absolute lowest in history – that is how careful they are.   I know what I am about to say may be hard to believe, but Israel’s enemy regards every death, regardless of whether it is someone on their side or the other side as a victory.

This is why, if Hamas truly cared about its people and their welfare, and wanted to prevent future tragedies and further loss of life, it would immediately, without any delay will lay down its arms and unconditionally release the 134 innocent hostages it has been holding for six months against their will.  There is no justification for these innocent men, women and children being held captive.

I call upon the leaders of the world to join me and recognize the nefarious, malicious evil that is Hamas, a proxy of Iran, and of how important it is to all who cherish freedom and value our way of life, that they be defeated.

Thank you, and God bless America.”

Can you imagine what would have happened if the President had made such a speech.

Rather than give legitimacy to Israel’s haters and detractors, rather than give oxygen to negative assumptions about Israel, rather than fueling and encouraging anti-Semitism, at a time of vicious hatred against Israel and Jews, it would have calmed the storm.

There is a word for this kind of response.  It is — presidential.  It is the kind of leadership and clear moral voice that is so desperately needed at this time, which is to remind people of the purpose and goals of Hamas, of who started the war, and why Israel continues to fight it.  The barbarism, devastation, cruelty, and intensity of the assault of Hamas is inconceivable and must not be forgotten or minimized, and stands in stark contrast to Israel’s ethos.

Instead of giving hope to Hamas to hold out for a better deal, which only serves to prolong the fighting, now is the time for leadership and moral clarity, not moral equivalence or ambiguity.

Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt

Rabbi Weinblatt is the Chairman of the Zionist Rabbinic Coalition and the rabbi of Congregation B’nai Tzedek of Potomac, MD. 

About the Author
Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt is the founding Chairman of the Zionist Rabbinic Coalition, dedicated to promoting Jewish unity, and has served as president of the Rabbinic Cabinet of the Jewish Federations of North America. He is the founding rabbi of Congregation B’nai Tzedek in Potomac, Maryland, a vibrant Conservative synagogue. In recognition of Rabbi Weinblatt’s leadership role in the community and as an outstanding teacher and speaker, he has received many awards from community organizations such as the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington and the Greater Washington Chapter of ORT. He is the author of, “God, Prayer and Spirituality,” a compilation of his sermons, writings and articles.
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