Commentary Magazine


Contentions

The Other Holocaust Doctrine

Gordon and Noah have been duking it out below about Charles Krauthammer’s bold call for a presidential “Holocaust statement,” in which the President would declare that any nuclear attack on Israel would be seen as an attack on the US, and that there would be no “second Holocaust.”

Today’s New York Times carries an op-ed by Zev Chafets, a former advisor to Prime Minister Menachem Begin. It’s really worth reading. Chafets accepts Krauthammer’s opening premise, that Bush has reneged on his commitment to preventing Iran from going nuclear. Yet he sees Krauthammer’s conclusion–that we should move all our thoughts towards how to deter an already-nuclear Iran–as premature.

Chafets lays into Bush’s non-response to Iran’s claim of having put online another 6,000 centrifuges, calling it “the abashed silence of an American president whose bluff has been called in front of the entire world.” But his real point is that the ball is now in Israel’s court. He writes:

I’m not questioning American friendship. But even friendship has practical limits. Presidents change and policies change. George W. Bush, the greatest friend Israel has had in the White House, hasn’t been able to keep a… commitment to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. It is a good thing that Israel didn’t build its deterrence on that commitment.

What’s more, it is fair to say that Israel is not a weak country. It has developed a powerful set of strategic options. In the best case, it would be able to act on its own to degrade and retard the Iranian nuclear program as it did in Iraq (and, more recently, Syria). In a worse case, if the Iranians do get the bomb, Iranian leaders might be deterred by rational considerations. If so, Israel’s own arsenal — and its manifest willingness to respond to a nuclear attack — ought to suffice.

If, on the other hand, the Iranian leadership simply can’t resist the itch to “wipe Israel off the map” — or to make such a thing appear imminent — then it would be up to Israel to make its own calculations. What is the price of 100,000 dead in Tel Aviv? Or twice that? The cost to Iran would certainly be ghastly. It would be wrong for Israel to expect other nations to shoulder this moral and geopolitical responsibility.

Chafets cites Begin’s example: In 1981 the Prime Minister ordered the bombing of the Osirak nuclear facility in Iraq, an act universally denounced at the time, but with hindsight proved to be crucial in preventing a nuclear Saddam. In Begin’s view, the true lesson of the Holocaust was that Jews should never be dependent on others, even good friends, for their fundamental security. Now, Israel faces a possibly much graver threat, and again will have to bear the burden all on its own. As Chafets puts it, “Sovereignty comes with a price. Israel’s willingness to pay it is the only Holocaust doctrine that it can really rely on.”


Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »





Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.