The second week of the current conflict between Hamas and Israel is upon us. It’s a good time to think carefully about Israel’s existential risks from more than Hamas, the terrorist organization that initiated the present hostilities. Hamas’ chief sponsor and financial backer is Iran, which has engaged in a venomous campaign to annihilate Israel since the present regime came to power.
“Today Iran, tomorrow Palestine.” as reported on The Atlantic magazine’s website, crowds of Iranians chanted loudly in their cry to eliminate Israel when the late Yasser Arafat paid an official visit to the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in February of 1979. Arafat visited Khomeini within days after the Iranian revolution successful overthrow of the Shah of Iran. The Shah had been a staunch ally of Israel.
The past 41 years have not lessened the thirst of today’s Iranian fundamentalist Islamic leadership to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.
Earlier this month, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called upon his followers to keep fighting Israel, which he said was not a state but a “terrorist garrison.”
“The fight against this despotic regime is the fight against oppression and the fight against terrorism. And this is a public duty to fight against this regime,” Khamenei said, as reported by Reuters.
Destruction of the State of Israel is a fundamental tenet of Shiite-led Iran. As Israel’s former Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren said on I24 cable news last week, “Hamas is prepared to fight until it (exhausts) its last rocket from Iran. If Hamas’ rockets weren’t manufactured in Iran, then they were almost certainly made by engineers trained in Iran.”
In the November-December 2006 edition of Foreign Affairs magazine, the late Ze’ev Schiff, a distinguished Israeli journalist, wrote that Israel’s conflict in Lebanon was not just another battle in the Middle East. “It also represented something much more disturbing: the start of a new war between Israel and Iran.”
Schiff wrote that “Iranians may not have been physically present on the frontlines in Lebanon, but they were active there nonetheless. A number of Revolutionary Guard members were killed in the Israeli incursion into the town of Baalbek (close to the Syrian border) on August 1 (2006), and Israeli intelligence claims that Iranians helped Hezbollah fire the land-to-sea missile that almost destroyed an Israeli warship in mid-July (2006). Most of Hezbollah’s arms — including modern antitank weapons and the thousands of rockets that rained down on Israel — came from Iran (as well as Syria).”
A conundrum that has plagued Israel for decades is that though it prevails on battlefields, it loses the larger public relations campaign, as horrific images of fallen Palestinians are broadcast around the world by Hamas’ sophisticated press operatives.
Hamas shrewdly maintained an office in a building in Gaza where the Associated Press (AP) and other international news organizations maintained offices. The building was ideally situated for journalists covering ongoing strife in Gaza. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) notified all news organizations in the building to evacuate hours before bombing it in order to eliminate a Hamas operations center there.
Instead of receiving credit for using the highest level of caution in carrying out the attack, Israel suffered harsh criticism.
“Although no was hurt, the airstrike demolished an office that was like a second home for AP journalists and marked a new chapter in the already rocky relationship between the Israeli military and the international media,” the AP reported.
In an interview last Sunday with John Dickerson of CBS News’ Face the Nation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized Israel’s efforts to warn journalists to leave the office building before the attack.
“One of the, I think, AP journalists aid we were lucky to get out. No, you weren’t lucky to get out. It wasn’t luck. It’s because we took special pains to call people in those buildings to make sure the premises were vacated.”
Iran is now enriching uranium at 60%, close to military grade, as reported on the CNBC website in April. General Amos Yadlin, former head of Israeli military intelligence told CNBC that Israel’s challenge to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons “will be tougher than past efforts against Iraq and Syria.”
As Iran continues to enhance its enrichment of uranium from 60% to a military grade of 90%, it may be able to develop nuclear weapons within several years or less. The current Iranian regime has pledged to destroy Israel. While Israel has vowed that it will act with deliberate force to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, its continued existence depends on its ability to defend itself from Iran’s promise of its assured destruction.
Of course, American Jews, like Israelis, pray for a comprehensive peace for Israel. But, with Iran’s Supreme Leader calling upon his followers to join an effort to destroy Israel, a sobering question must be asked: What if Israel, through a twist of fate, faced a nuclear Iran? Iran’s proxy, Hamas, is willing to engage in a systematic campaign of rocket attacks on Israel. It is a battle that Hamas cannot win, yet it is willing to subject Palestinians to the toll of reprisals because of its stated intention to destroy Israel as a Zionist nation.
Would Iran, Hamas’ sponsor, armed with nuclear weapons, spare Israel? History answers that question. Adolf Hitler wrote openly of his quest to destroy the Jewish people in Mein Kampf, his autobiographical manifesto, in which he openly wrote of his desire to rid the world of Jews. When Iran and Hamas openly call for destruction of the Jewish homeland, Israel and the Diaspora are compelled to confront their pledge. The lesson of the Holocaust is that every Jew in the world is existentially linked to Israel’s survival. That is a lesson we must never forget.