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The Deal

08/04/2015 11:15:58 AM


Rabbi George Gittleman

Like many of you, Israel is on my mind. The big issue is the pending deal with Iran, but that is not the only troubling reality to confront these days. Just last week, an unhinged ultra-Orthodox man stabbed six people at the annual Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem, and the next day in an unrelated incident, a Palestinian toddler died in a fire lit by a radicalized group of Israeli settlers. The one thread that runs through these events is a violent strain of religious zealotry which seems more and more the reality of life in the Middle East.

A number of folks in the congregation have asked for my opinion on the Iran deal. To my knowledge there is not a section in the Talmud on nuclear proliferation, and this was certainly not a subject we explored in Rabbinical School! When I was studying at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, we occasionally received high- level security briefings – Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak and others met with us – but these days, my sources of information are the same as yours. In other words, I am not more qualified than any of you to comment on “the deal”. Nevertheless, here’s my “two cents” for what it is worth, which I hope will be an opening for all those interested to join the conversation.

It’s a bad deal. I wanted to like it. I wanted to be able to support our president and embrace what I hoped would be the best way forward. I wanted to feel reassured that the U.S really had Israel’s back. That’s what I wanted but that is not what happened. It’s a bad deal and this is why:

  • At best, it only delays Iran’s production of a nuclear weapon
  • It does nothing to deter Iran from acquiring or building a missile -delivery system for a nuclear weapon
  • Once sanctions are lifted, Iran will have billions of dollars to pour into the many radical Islamic groups its supports, all intent on destroying Israel, like Hezbollah and Hamas.

One compelling argument for the deal is that, as bad as it is, it’s better than the alternative: war. If war was the only alternative, I might agree (though history has not been kind to those who appease instead of fight when the “red line” is crossed). But there is another alternative: continue the sanctions. If Iran is hard to contain now, when it is isolated and economically crippled, imagine the challenges we will face with an Iran flush with oil revenues, internally somnolent, its middle class back on its feet, and re-armed with the latest Russian and French weaponry. Not a pretty picture.

Of course, the U.S is not the only party to the agreement and one wonders where the other nations stand. My guess is that we only have access to the tip of the iceberg of information that informed Secretary Kerry and President Obama’s decision to take “the deal”. Nevertheless, “the deal” as far as I can discern, is a bad one that I hope Congress rejects.

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