Tag Archives: Iran

Ani L’Dodi, An enduring relationship

“Ani L’Dodi v’Dodi Li.” These poetic words from the Song of Solomon are spoken as words of commitment under the marriage canopy. “I am My Beloved’s and My Beloved is mine” is the symbolic joining and full commitment of one to another. We aspire to this in our deepest relationships. But as a people we have sadly failed to live up to this hope. Every Jew is integral to Israel and Israel is integral to every Jew. We are bound inextricably together emotionally and spiritually, a modern homeland and the diaspora, two parts of one whole. Together greater than the individual parts could achieve.

 We do however permit the separation and distance, a cleaving when we hear when some claim to be against Israel but fine with Jews; that it is possible to be anti-Zionist while not being Anti-Semitic. For Jews such parsing of words is false. It speaks to a reading of history that is biased and ultimately these two hatreds conflate.

 I was struck when Iranian President Rouhani offered New Year Greetings to Jews of the world while almost within the same breath recommitted his country to the extermination of Israel. “May our shared Abrahamic roots deepen respect and bring peace and mutual understanding.” This seems to be a disingenuous goodwill offering since his worldview requires the eradication of Israel, where approximately 6million of my fellow Jews reside and would be murdered for to achieve his political goal.

 Jews find themselves attempting to parse words and find something good in Rouhani’s outreach. This “olive branch” however is a straw man. It is an insidious attempt to separate Israel from its own people through the delegitimizing efforts by Israel’s enemies.   Even when we disagree with policies or politics within Israel, we cannot divorce ourselves from her, or permit others to divide us. Israel is a fundamental part of us. Who we are is in some measure defined by our relationship to Israel. Commitment to Israel’s growth and evolution as well as our commitment to the State’s survival is at the heart of what it means to be in relationship with another. An attack on our spouse with the caveat that you however are all right would be deeply offensive. And we would defend the one we love. How can we not rise to the defense of our brethren as well?

 I am in deep relationship. I have a vested interest in Israel’s success both as a nation and as an aspiration. When Israel falters, I have the responsibility to be constructively critical because of my relationship. Helping Israel to be better makes me better as well. We all are improved off as a result of such efforts. And when people stop calling for the destruction of a part of who I am, I will gratefully acknowledge offerings of good tidings for the coming year.

More than the Iran Agreement

We continue to debate the pros and cons of the Iran deal during the 60-day review period preceding the vote in Congress. I read the article about the rabbis signing a letter opposing the Nuclear Agreement and the interesting points made by my colleagues. I am among those rabbis who signed the other public letter in support of the Nuclear Agreement, based on what I believe was a thoughtful deliberative process. But beyond pro and cons, there are three very important Jewish issues that spring from this situation and they not include who has more signers and join my voice to the growing number who share these concerns.

 First, we have close to two thousand rabbis now, who care deeply enough about the issue to place their names publicly identifying how they feel.   Secondly we have the opportunity to raise the quality of the debate. Third, we need to discuss how we constructively move forward in the aftermath of this process.

 I am pleased that we live in a place where we feel comfortable enough with our station to engage in a political conversation that affects us as Americans and Jews and supporters of Israel. This ability to actively and vocally participate in the public square is one of the great blessings of living in the United States.

 Second, I have been deeply concerned that the discussions about the deal have devolved into a nasty shouting match filled with vitriol. Therefore the shouting detracts from us as Klal Yisrael. As President Lincoln declared, “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” and so too it is with us. As a people we have always wrestled with issues. Our holiest texts engage us in these contests with other people and often with the Divine. It is a proud tradition that compels us to grow because we are required to listen to the counter argument or alternative interpretation. Our Talmud preserves the minority view for a distinct purpose, namely for us to learn from the disputation process, that even the ultimately rejected view carries weight and is deserving of respect. We are elevated when our conversations are “for the sake of heaven, Makhloket l’Shem Shamyim,” and we are debased when they are not.

 Third and finally, regardless of our individual positions, the United States will move forward in one way or the other. We need to start reaching out to each other now to rebuild the bonds of fellowship that have been deeply shaken. We also must be practical and pragmatic working on behalf of the things we care about, namely the United States and Israel, ensuring this alliance remains unshakable and both are fully capable of defending itself from all threats, including from Iran.

 Despite the passion that so many have on this issue, at the end of the day, we are one people. Now is a very good time for us to remind ourselves of this. We must not let the differences of opinions detract from our responsibility to respect each other. This is a pledge we all can sign.

Given the facts, Israelis would also support the Iran deal – Opinion – – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

The agreement with Tehran is going to be approved, and Jewish groups have much to lose by lobbying against it.

Source: Given the facts, Israelis would also support the Iran deal – Opinion – – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

A Deal with Iran- Good, Bad; Yes

 This morning the President announced we reached a deal with Iran.   It is complex. It is less than what we wanted, and it is more than what it could be. Pardon my cryptic ambivalence, but it is both more and less at the same time. Negotiating, particularly with an adversary, requires both sides compromise to reach a deal.

 I necessarily place my trust in my President and his Secretary of State to negotiate what is in the best interests of the United States and hope that these interests align with those of the State of Israel. Congress must now take a deep dive into the details necessary to properly understand the terms of this deal and then act accordingly. And we too need to take the time to learn the details before concluding whether the deal is good or bad and then we prepare for the ramifications of this deal. But for the time being, the fact we have arrived at a negotiated settlement is in itself important. For it is extraordinarily difficult to talk to an enemy in a peaceful process and reach a conclusion.

 Dealing with a country that regularly promotes demonstrations where the chant “Death to America, Death to Israel” is a mainstay, we know that we are not dealing with a friendly nation. Reigning Iran in was the goal. This is far less than complete permanent dismantling of their nuclear programs, but far more than nothing. Might we create rapprochement and Iran become a friend? That is a very long way off. But we have bought time where such entente can be cultivated.

 A nuclear Iran as an avowed enemy is a terrifying prospect. The road ahead continues to be difficult and dangerous. I hope that this agreement scales back the hatred and today’s historic settlement is a step toward a world that is just a little bit safer than it was before.

The Elusive Good Deal with Iran

 We have a framework of understanding with Iran in the negotiations on their nuclear program. This is a long way away from a deal, let alone a good deal. But we have arrived at an important place. Now the debate begins. That debate needs to be both vigorous and rigorous.

 I hope Congress is a vocal part of the debate and crafting of the final deal. The devil is in the details, they say, and certainly that is true here. Each side has a distinctly different interpretation of expectations, obligations and responsibilities of the framework, even within the P5+1. We need to understand what we want from this deal and how to achieve it before we can imagine how we move forward.

 Let us hope the debate is vigorous. The Congress will seek to clarify and demand accountability in ways that it deems appropriate and necessary. The President likewise, will work towards sharing what he envisions as the Deal and why. Like any collaborative work, the process is arduous and the end product likely will be different from the initial draft. But rarely have the stakes been higher. Let us remain vocal, sharing concerns and fears, hopes and aspirations.

 For those with a relationship to Israel there is another layer to the debate; for there is an existential threat that exists. Iran remains the sworn enemy of Israel and is committed to Israel’s destruction. When Israel’s agenda differs from the negotiated deal, how we reconcile them and work to secure Israel preemptively is critically important. We do not have the luxury of supporting Israel in the aftermath of an attack. In a nuclear attack, there would not be much left to support. So we must carefully consider what we are negotiating towards.

 What is the Iran we hope to see and how might the Deal move us towards that vision? History is replete with bad deals that have created situations far worse than the problems these deals were meant to resolve. Can we craft a deal with full forethought? An Iran that remains committed to destruction and not coexistence, intolerance instead of tolerance, an Iran that seeks to impose its values, or an Iran that becomes like a wild animal boxed into a corner will surely result in a less stable region and world.

 May the final deal result in a world that is safer and more secure. Let’s get to work.

P5+1 and Iran-Waiting for the verdict on Negotiations

We sit with bated breath, waiting to learn what will come of the P5+1 negotiations with Iran. So much is at stake, from the President’s desire to achieve a deal, to an arms race that could further inflame a region already burning almost out of control. Everyone on both sides knows the stakes and whether the interests of all parties can align for the benefit of the world is something only time will tell us.

For now, it is time to hope and pray that all the leaders can see the greater good and the threats to humanity that standing on the precipice poses. In this moment we turn to our faith, faith in our Creator and faith in ourselves and pray that something good will come forth. And as tomorrow’s sunrise so too will be the dawn of a new age for us all. Whatever the outcome, so much rides on how we creatively meet the new reality, may we be ready to engage.

A New Deal for Iran

No agreement is better than a bad agreement. On this both Benjamin Netanyahu and Susan Rice agree, and likely most of the rest of us. But unfortunately, the definition of a “non-bad agreement” appears elusive. And Mr. Netanyahu has dismissed the present agreement as thoroughly unacceptable despite the fact that the agreement is still being negotiated and we have not seen its details.

So, there is the back and forth, the shifting of the negotiations and terms, the use of sanctions and threats of sanctions, other options on the table, an established time line as opposed to open-ended non-proliferation. There are those who would like to impose sanctions; and nothing short of a permanent and complete dismantling of the Iranian nuclear program should be accepted. However, these talks seem to be aware of a dangerous pragmatic reality, namely, we cannot stop Iran from developing the technology of a nuclear bomb and ultimately a bomb itself.   This seems to be the great unspoken bottom line. We can put it off but we cannot stop it completely. For those of us who question this assessment, look no further than North Korea.

So Prime Minister Netanyahu is making a “hail Mary” pass to the end zone. Unfortunately there is no one downfield able to catch the ball (please pardon the football analogy). This is the dawn of an era of a “nuclearized” Middle East. Iran’s inexorable march to the bomb likely means that an arms race will ensue with Iran’s neighbors seeking parity as a means of self-defense.

The question is not whether we can prevent Iran from having a weapon, or even for how long we might delay it. The real question is how to manage the world with a nuclear capable Iran?

That is the single strongest argument for integrating Iran into the world, for eliminating sanctions and bringing the West with its freedom of ideas and wealth to the people of Iran. The people and the government of Iran must view the West as an ally, not as a threat to the Iranian way of life, but that also means that Iran cannot be a platform to support terrorist activity around the world, dedicate itself to the annihilation of Israel and seek a dominant position exercising its influence in the Middle East and beyond. The existential threat understood by Israel needs to be defused while the Iranian hegemony of the Middle East is managed towards a peaceful coexistence with the West. This is no small task to say the very least. This is a very long road.

In many ways we have created and facilitated this monster. Can we now help Iran move toward next steps that make it counted among the community of nations and not our adversary? We need to acknowledge our part in the creation of present day Iran, from the assassination of their democratically elected leader, Mossadeq; installation of the pro-western Shah; instigation of a protracted Iran-Iraq conflict; incubation of radicals to fill a vacuum created once brutal dictators became vulnerable or were eliminated. Then we might understand them with the end goal of working with them.

By placing pressure on Iran, we have created economic pain, exacerbated by a collapsing price for oil, Iran’s primary of revenue. This can only take us so far before it begins to have the opposite of the intended effect by boxing them into a corner. Additionally, it is clear that the world contains bad players who would be prepared to help Iran to furthering its own self-interest despite the hopes of the West, even thwarting those hopes.

The United States cannot go it alone, nor can it impose its will around the world. An alternative where the participants understand the benefits of collaboration outweigh obstruction or undermining is vital in a world order that is undergoing a rapid metamorphosis. As of now, Germany, France, Great Britain, The United States, China and Russia, the “P5+1” group, is responsible for the negotiations with Iran. The agendas of each do not easily align with each other.

No deal is better than a bad deal. So lets finally talk about the right deal.