Commentary Magazine


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A Worrying Analogy

Some might think the following is a reassuring line of argument, but I find it distressing. It’s been used in the past by John McCain, and appeared yesterday in the VP debate courtesy of  Governor Sarah Palin:

Israel is our strongest and best ally in the Middle East. We have got to assure them that we will never allow a second Holocaust, despite, again, warnings from Iran and any other country that would seek to destroy Israel, that that is what they would like to see.

It’s not that I do not appreciate the thought–I just think that no assurances can be sufficient in this case at this point in time. So far the U.S. has failed miserably in its effort to stop or significantly slow Iran’s nuclear program, so the Holocaust analogy is more frightening than it is reassuring. It is as if we were saying: if we keep failing, a second holocaust is imminent–when in fact we are failing.

It is also not reassuring because Israelis are starting to realize that America might not be available for help in the coming years:

Israel has always put its trust in American backing and support. As long as America was around, we knew we had something to rely on. Not just arms supplies, but political backing for Israel’s interests, including support for peace initiatives . . . With the approach of the U.S. presidential elections next month, America’s order of priorities is liable to change.

And as Haaretz‘s Aluf Benn has remarked, Israeli leaders have toned down their rhetoric on Iran. Whether this is a result of realization that Israel will not be able to preempt Iran all by itself (as Prime Minister Olmert has said in an interview last week) or a tactical move, supposedly misleading the Iranians into believing that Israel can’t act, is yet to be determined. But either way this seems to me to be the right thing to do. Getting the Iranians to believe that a second Holocaust is within reach is not an advisable way to go. And if one is serious about doing what’s necessary, this is a case to which I’d apply the “if you want to shoot, shoot–don’t talk” rule (and by “shoot” I don’t mean literally shoot; I mean do something that might have an impact).