Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

By Jim Shipley
Shipley Speaks 

A singular voice


Life at the top can be lonely. If you became the “Decider”—the one who must make the difficult decisions—taking the best advice of trusted associates, there would come a time in any really important decision when it is on you and you alone.

While Dick Cheney gets a lot of the blame for the horrific miscalculations that led to more than a decade of war and hundreds of thousands of lives lost, the fact remains, the president was in the chair and he had the final yeses and noes.

Same goes for the head of any democratic society. If you happen to lead a nation of just over seven million people—less than half the population of Florida, it is even more cantankerous and difficult. If that nation happens to be Israel, oy vey.

A close associate of Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu told me that Netanyahu goes to bed every night and wakes up every morning with one thing on his mind: Iran. Remember that Bibi’s dad was a noted historian and professor of Jewish history at Cornell. His seminal work was on the Spanish Inquisition. Raised in the household of a solid revisionist and as former secretary to Jabotinsky, Benzion Netanyahu schooled his sons on the need for a Jewish homeland and the threats that would forever hang over it once it was established.

I met Bibi Netanyahu at his dad’s home in 1980 when I accompanied a U.S. congressman to Israel on what we euphemistically called a “fact finding trip.” At the time the younger Netanyahu was in essence a furniture salesman working with a few kibbutzim in their manufacturing efforts.

At the time he told me that his one ambition was to found an anti-terrorist foundation in the name of his brother Yonatan who had been the only one killed in the Entebbe rescue mission. In our rather short meeting there was no question that he had political ambition and that he was indeed a chip off the old block.

As a student of history and the head of a nation threatened on a daily basis by jihadists like Hamas and Hezbollah, the latter backed by Iran, the former probably so to some extent, it is his job to be cautious and ever vigilant. Yes, the Israeli public is restive and tired of war or warnings of war. But, the average Israeli also knows their history and can still see evidence of the years when busses blew up, hotel dining rooms were attacked and pizza parlors full of teenagers were bombed.

When the new president of Iran came to the U.S. bearing promises of a new day and a new attitude toward negotiation with the Western World, he was greeted with some skepticism but with the attitude: well, let’s see.

President Obama had a chat with him via telephone. Meetings followed at a lower level. There are meetings in Geneva between the parties and the U.N. as this is being written. There is no doubt that the Persian nation is hurting. Their banking channels have all but been shut off. Their oil continues to flow through clandestine channels, albeit in much fewer quantities than before the sanctions took hold. As the people of Iran are squeezed, it is even beginning to be felt by the Revolutionary Guard, the militant leaders of the Iranian military and staunch defenders of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The guard controls a huge share of the Iranian economy. Any time you are looking for a power center, follow the money. If indeed the sanctions are starting to bite, the guard might just be feeling it. That would be almost the only reason for a detente of any kind.

All that Iran is doing is playing for time. Israeli intelligence feels that Iran is doubling their efforts to get to the point of no return. U.S. intelligence has guessed wrong before with disastrous results. The question that keeps Netanyahu (and many others with interest in Israel) up at night is: What if?

Is this a phony approach to buy another six months or a year for their centrifuges or Uranium development to go past Netanyahu’s point of no return? Is the U.S. really ready to back Israel if they decide they have to go it alone and attack?

Israel was smart enough to warn the U.S. not to get involved in Syria because it is too hard to separate the bad guys from the good guys. Now, it is a different story. The Iranian regime is bad guys. There are no good guys.

Do they really have an interest in living in harmony with the rest of the world and making life better for their citizens? Or is Netanyahu’s study of history and instincts that in the end only Jews will take care of Jews correct? No wonder he is kept up at night. I’m not sleeping too well myself.


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