Making Teshuva on Iran

Last week, I read Rabbi Eric Yoffie’s blog posting about PM Netanyahu’s recent appearances on American television wherein the Prime Minister condemned the Obama Administration’s policy of setting no red lines regarding Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. Rabbi Yoffie’s assertion in the article is one that I have heard from no few friends who are strong supporters of President Obama, namely that the Israeli PM’s appearances on American television amount to meddling in the US Presidential election and that Netanyahu appears to have taken sides, supporting Gov. Romney. Rabbi Yoffie correctly notes that whether or not this was PM Netanyahu’s intent, appearing to choose sides could impair cooperation between the government of Israel and US officials connected to the Democratic party.

That said, is it reasonable to ask the Prime Minister of Israel not to advocate for a stronger policy on Iran’s nuclear weapons program through November 6? To ask that the PM not attempt to make concern about Iran, an existential issue for Israel, more of a campaign issue? Recently, Rabbi David Wolpe, not exactly a right-wing Republican (his prayer opened the Democratic National Convention) stated in a feature article for Time that he would be voting in this election on one issue alone, Iran. Rabbi Wolpe thinks it reasonable to name the fact that Iran should be The Issue and he is clearly a Democrat. So can one say that the Israeli Prime Minister cannot point out that it should be a bigger issue in the election when it concerns his nation? None of this excuses PM Netanyahu’s precise action of going on American television and speaking forcefully against the policies of the Obama Administration, something which is easily seen as attempting to interfere, to meddle, to take sides.

Here is what I believe. The election needs to be about the issues, not the issues about the election. In other words, whether or not PM Netanyahu should have gone on American television to challenge the President’s policy, the issue that we should be discussing should not be the elections, but the issue of Iran and what to do about it. The response to PM Netanyahu by Democrats should not be “Don’t meddle in the elections,” but “You’re wrong and here’s why?” The discussion is in the wrong place. We’re heading in the wrong direction. We need to turn, to make teshuva.

Iran continues to march toward Nuclear weapons capability and there is some difference between the official position of the Obama Administration and that of the Netanyahu Administration on the issue of Iranian nuclear weapons.

Netanyahu's nuclear diagram, presented at the UN General Assembly on Thursday. (photo credit: IBA screenshot)

The difference in these policies may not appear to be great, but it is. Once capability has been achieved, a nuclear weapon may be created in a very short additional period of time. The Israelis believe that Iran will achieve capability in six to seven months and that progress needs to be halted with red lines put in place immediately because Iran is already further than it should be allowed to go with enrichment of uranium.

If Iran will achieve capability in six to seven months and could create a weapon possibly in a few more months after that, the issue is indeed an urgent one, potentially even worthy of coming on American television shows and shouting about it. It is time to stop saying what we feel about the possibility of Iran acquiring either nuclear weapons capability or a nuclear weapon and start demonstrating by word and deed what we are prepared to do about it and when.

We need to make teshuva, to turn our attention to the issue at hand, preventing Iran from threatening the peace of the region, the existence of Israel, and our way of life. It should not be PM Netanyahu’s job to tell Americans to advocate for Iran’s nuclear program to be an issue in the election and to motivate both candidates to take strong positions. It should be our job. Let us speak out. Regardless of who wins the election, we need the President of the United States in January, 2013 to deal with the Iranian threat.

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