Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly wants to attack Iran before the U.S. elections. If true, it is a demonstration of the predictability of U.S. politics. Netanyahu knows that both Romney and Obama are seeking the support of Jewish voters and would be less likely to denounce such a unilateral attack before November. Indeed, they might even help fund the war with additional U.S. loans and military support. What is equally bizarre is the scene of top Israeli officials going to the ranking Rabbi in Israel to get his approval for the attacks. We are accustomed to seeing such influence by religious figures in Iran, but officials have been shuttling back and forth to get the nod from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
The attack on Iran could unleash a regional conflict and cause widespread destruction. Israel clearly expects that the U.S. will be forced to support it with the likely supply of billions of dollars of loans and replenishment of weapons. Even if Obama had the courage to denounce the attack, Congress would make certain that eventually Israel would be given the financial and military support that it needed.
The very public courting of Yosef to approve the attack included a briefing from National Security Council head Ya’akov Amidror, Interior Minister and Shas political leader Eli Yishai. Israel has long struggled under a political system that gives small religious parties virtual control of the Knesset and does not have the separation of church (or temple) and state that we have in this country. The result is that orthodox parties have radically inflated levels of power in the country and citizens live under laws which openly advance religious practices.
Yosef has criticized secular courts and leaders, including the Israeli Supreme Court which has struggled with the mix of religion and law in the country:
These call themselves the Supreme Court? They’re worthless. They should be put in a bottom court. They, for them [God] created all of the torments in the world. Everything that [the people of] Israel suffer from, is just for these evil people. Empty and reckless… What do they know? One of our children of 7–8 years knows better than they how to learn Torah. These are the people who have been put in the Supreme Court. Who chose them, who made them judges, but the Justice Minister, persecuter and enemy he liked them and he recommended that the President would appoint them as judges. What, were there elections? Who says that the nation wants such judges, such evil [ones]… They have no religion and no law. All of them have sex with Niddot. All of them desecrate the Sabbath. These will be our judges? Slaves rule over us.
The most interesting aspect of these stories however is the alleged timing of the attacks to the U.S. election. The American people could now find themselves clipped for billions more to support yet another war without any meaningful debate. Indeed we may end up an active participant if Iran attacks U.S. assets in response to the Israeli attack. It is the crushing predicability of it all that is so disturbing. The American public has long been opposed to the two current wars, but it has made little difference. There remains a disconnect in the political system as members pursue the course of least risk to themselves and their own reelection. That concern is only magnified by the lingering image left by these reports that we could end up in a new full-fledged war based on the inclinations of an ultra-Orthodox Rabbi in Israel. Hopefully he does not have a veto on the war but this is clearly a decision being made far from our shores.
Part of the concern is that President Obama and his predecessors have gradually gutted the constitutional requirement of congressional approval for wars as reflected in the Libyan War (for full disclosure, I represented the members opposing that war in court). If we were to enter such a conflict against Iran either indirectly or directly, the President has claimed the right to do so unilaterally and many members would privately support the action.
In the meantime, our leaders are reportedly accepting free trips to Israel paid by an affiliate of AIPAC, the powerful Israeli lobby, to skinny dip in the Sea of Galilee
It could be a perfectly symbolic moment as our leader frolic with abandon in the Sea of Galilee as the country is moved closer to a third war.
What do you think?