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March 16, 2015 12:43 pm

To Bibi or Not to Be

avatar by Shmuley Boteach

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the 2015 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference on March 2. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

I thought this title was clever (but feel free to roll your eyes), conveying as it does the belief of some that should Bibi lose this election, Israel cannot be. Of course no single person is indispensable, as Jewish history has proved repeatedly.

However, what concerns me most about Bibi’s opponents, should they win this election, is their opposition to Jewish communities in the West Bank. Israel can hardly survive another Gaza on its Western border. The only thing that can prevent this from happening is a robust Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria. So I regard this as an existential issue.

Then there’s the issue of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

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Bibi is condemned for being too bellicose, too argumentative, too paranoid, and too prickly in his relationship with President Obama.

To all those who believe this, I remind you of the famous saying of baseball great Yogi Berra: “Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.” We who have fought alongside Bibi in the American media in his battle to bring an awareness of the dangers of Iran to the American people and its lawmakers have likewise been accused of fear mongering. But does one take a chance with a government like Iran?

The real question is whether Yitzchak Herzog and Tzipi Livni will have a better relationship with President Obama than Netanyahu has. No doubt they will. But only if they do not defy the President’s wishes, as Bibi has done. Had Netanyahu kowtowed to the President’s wishes, no doubt they too would have been best buds. So, if Herzog comes out against the President’s deal with Iran one can imagine the President will be as annoyed with him as he is with Bibi. The same is true if Herzog allows the expansion of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

So capitulation to President Obama’s wishes might be the price a new Israeli Prime Minister pays to be in the President’s good graces.

This is a curious facet of the President’s relationship with Israel — especially in that it does not pertain to other world leaders. Last week The New York Times reported that President Obama feels close to President Erdogan of Turkey, at least he did up until recently. Now, Erdogan has certainly never listened to much of what the President has wanted. He has not closed the border to Syria. He has not joined in the fight against ISIS. He has not even allowed Turkish air bases to be used in the campaign against ISIS. Still, the President has the cordial relationship with Erdogan that he does have with Bibi and which he will presumably not have with Herzog if he does not accede to the President’s demands.

It seems equally curious that Israeli voters will choose a Prime Minister based on his relationship with President Obama, when our President only has about a year and a half left to his Presidency. What could President Obama accomplish in that period?

Well, he can sign the catastrophic deal with Iran. That would be about the worst of it. As far as getting Israel to sign a final-status treaty with the Palestinians, that seems highly unlikely. Hamas remains an unrepentant terror group committed to a genocide of the Jewish People. Mahmoud Abbas remains an unaccountable dictator, and who seems to have lost the mandate of his people now that he’s in the 10th year of a four-year term. So, who exactly is Israel going to sign the treaty with?

Also, will the President really convince the American people that a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians is our country’s most important Middle Eastern priority when ISIS is running around chopping people’s heads off and Syria, Libya, and Yemen continue to totally implode?

In the larger scheme, as well, it seems odd that any country would choose a leader based first and foremost on how they get along with the leader of another country. Shouldn’t the priority be to choose who’s best for your own country?

I recognize that many Israelis believe that Israel’s most important security issue is its relationship with the United States. And indeed, my country, the United States, is benevolent, loving, and supportive of Israel. But leaning too instinctively on America seems antithetical to one of Zionism’s primary values — that of Jewish independence. As Netanyahu beautifully argued at the UN, what makes Israel different for Jews is that — for the first time in 2,000 years — Jews are defending themselves. They are not dependent on a Prince, a Pope, or a President for their protection. They are not supplicants. On the contrary, they have built a world-class defense establishment, and are the ultimate guarantors of Jewish safety.

And besides, it’s not just the President who determines the relationship between the U.S. and Israel. There is also Congress, which, under this President, is becoming more assertive and vocal, as we’ve seen with the recent letter of 47 Senators to the leadership of Iran.

Tuesday’s election is being portrayed as a referendum on Netanyahu. And perhaps it is. But of much greater importance: whether Israelis vote for Bibi or for Bougie, this election will be a referendum on how Israel sees itself. The choices are stark. Israel is either a nation whose first consideration must be what will please the American president. Or, Israel is a sovereign nation whose first consideration must be what is good for the Israeli people, even as Israel pays homage to its great friend in the West.

To be or not to be is the ultimate existential question. And in 2015, that question for Israel is more stark than ever before.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbis,” whom Newsweek and The Washington Post call “the most famous Rabbi in America,” and whom The Jerusalem Post lists as one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world, is an award-winning columnist and the international best-selling author of 30 books, including his most recent, “Kosher Lust.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

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  • Dan Silagi

    In this country, which is where Shmuley Boteach lives, such blatant electioneering from the pulpit would cost “This World: The Values Network” (whose values?) its tax-exempt status.

    Is it any more legal for the head of a tax-exempt organization to campaign for a foreign head of state than for say, Ted Cruz?

    Enquiring minds want to know.

  • Elisheva

    I just voted today for my first time and it was thrilling. Israelis are not stupid and they are not all focused at all on pleasing Obama. Most Israelis like the United States and strongly dislike Obama and know he is soon leaving office. It would be better if American Jews had focused on electing a president who was pro-Israel. I think Israelis want a strong PM who can defend the country. No one I know in Israel has any delusions about Obama.

    • Abu Nudnik

      Pro-American would be a good start. If Israel is in America’s interest, then that would be rolled into that. I think it is but Obama doesn’t.

  • Patricia

    I want BIBI to win. I would love to trade our traitorous Obama for Bibi. I despise the lies that roll so easily off Obama’s tongue, his double dealing, his hidden agenda. He is NOT a friend to America OR Israel.

  • “As Netanyahu beautifully argued at the UN, what makes Israel different for Jews is that — for the first time in 2,000 years — Jews are defending themselves. They are not dependent on a Prince, a Pope, or a President for their protection. They are not supplicants. On the contrary, they have built a world-class defense establishment, and are the ultimate guarantors of Jewish safety.”

    The missing element here is the Jewish people’s absolute need to be dependent upon our God who delivered us at a long-ago Passover from Egypt and hard bondage, and who has acted throughout our history — including “behind the scenes” — such as at Purim, and in bringing to pass the re-establishment of the Jewish homeland in our own days. Without genuine faith in the God who chose us to be His “peculiar people”, we will find ourselves “without strength” — whether of the IDF, or of the U.S., or of even our own selves.

    Messiah has come, and He will come again when His people Israel acknowledge that He alone comes to save us from all our own sins and from our other enemies.

  • Abraham Schnytzer

    Shmueley. How dare you tell those of us who live here what is or is not an existential issue? Some of us, and I suspect most of us, care about a life free of hunger and other socio-economic needs. Bibi, by making Iran the only game in town, has guaranteed himself a place in the dustbin of history. And you should come live here if you really care about Israel. You had no idea what Bibi was talking about in Congress! It was an election gig! Jews who care about Israel live here and understood that.

  • Lauren Goldman

    One thing about a two-state solution is that as a sovereign nation, should the ‘Palestinian State’ attack another sovereign state, Israel, the response can and should be total. It is a given that hamas, or the ‘Palestinian State’ will not be able to control themselves, and will attack Israel, not long after achieving nationhood. When that occurs, Israel should enact a scorched-earth response clear to the Jordan River (or beyond), and this time not one inch of anything will be returned. If it does come to this, there should be no prisoners, no questions, no mercy. Picking up arms against Israel must be an enemy combatants’ death sentence.

  • Paul

    Your article is SO full of distortions and misunderstandings, it is difficult to know where to begin.
    You believe Israel without Bibi may not stand ? Many many people here, including many of his own supporters, are coming to realise that Israel WITH more of Bibi, Israel may not stand.
    Sorry Rabbi, you are so wrong. It is NOT about Obama, it is about Bibi.
    Are you aware that Bibi has just officially gone back on his 2-state solution bluff, and announced he will never agree to a Palestinian state ? (Because his own voters and supporters have started deserting him before the elections). The man is simply a liar (and that is what he was branded by his own most respected political colleagues when they left his party in disgust). He made the Bar Ilan speech pretending he supported a 2-state solution, to gain legitimacyin the eyes of reasonable people – but his desperation has made him admit that he didn’t mean it (as everybody here knew – but he could always wave the Bar Ilan speech to ward off attacks).
    Your belief that the opposition to Bibi is aimed at appeasing Obama is totally misinformed, is an insult to the readers intelligence and does not say much about your understanding of the realities here.
    Our good relationship with the USA is a vital asset. We have this relationship because we supposedly share common values. Placing Jewish CIVILIANS in illegal or quasi-legal settlements on the West Bank is against international law, and is perceived as illegitimate colonialism by at least half the Israelis, and everyone else in the world, Israel’s best friends included. Yet all you can say is we want to please Obama ? The fact that Israelis cannot buy or even rent housing, or that a family with two fully employed academic professions cannot make ends mee and are moving bacj in with their parents – these mean nothing to you ? It’s all about trying to please Obama ? It’s about the poverty our elderly suffer, about one third of our children going to sleep hungry – while he boasts of his economic achievements and is constantly being dragged to court over overspending and petty stealing of state funds for his private needs – the kind of obtuse, crass, disgusting behaviour that turns his emotional supporters against him. Its NOT Obama, it’s Bibi.
    Regarding security – his bumbling mishandling of our security needs has been slammed by our military and intelligence authorities as soon as they are free to speak – not about Obama.
    Our entire military establishment explains that negotations with the Palestinians are needed for OUR security. Not only to try please Obama.
    You have a very strange and mistaken tunnel vision of what is happening here. You would be well advised to try open your mind and try see things in an unprejudiced way.
    If you think Israel can survive without the 2-state solution – please explain what the situation will be here in 50 years time: a single state with a muslim majority ? Bibi is leading us toward a future that would be the end of the Jewish state – and you think its about Obama.

  • No one, not even the extreme left Meretz party could make a deal with the Palestinians, because the Palestinians do not want peace with Israel, but peace without Israel.

  • Friedl

    Great article. I hope ISRAEL chooses the right Prime Minister. Bibi should continue and protect our homeland and all off us. Tough choice require a tough stand and sometimes a tough stand does not make you popular the time. However we don’t have time to wait and win a popularity contest.

  • Rabby Shmuley has it exactly right: Is Israel going to kowtow an (inept) American President or act as the sovereign nation that it is? That is the most important question in this election. I wish people had more retentive memories. If Levy Eshkol had bowed to Pres. Johnson’s warning “not to fire the first shot” in 1967, the IDA would not have annihilated the Egyptian airforce and possibly not won the war, or perhaps she wold have won the war, like in 1973, without an initial pre-emptive strike but at am immensely higher cost in Jewish Lives.

  • You should know that President Obama loves NOT only golf but also bowling! But he has been practicing ‘bowling’ especially in politics…

    I invite you to notice that in the Middle East, which is President Obama’s favorite ‘bowling alley’ there is a SKITTLE [?] – in the President’s conception!! – which he wants to break – it’s name is BIBI!

    We all hope that Prime Minister Netanyahu can remain VERTICAL and defend the interests of the State of Israel!

  • Eli

    Obama is basically a bully, someone who will attack anyone he perceives as weak (Israel), but avoids provoking anyone who he suspects will stand tall (think Putin, Iran, China, and Turkey).

    If the election brings the Left to power, they will be faced with the choice of demonstrating that they are weak and kowtowing to Obama, or rejecting his demands. If they win, the fate of israel will depend on how the Left decides this matter.

  • Ben Lopez

    I will stand by my bible of god,and think benjamin netanahu is isriaels best choice,good luck god willing.i hope the isriael people are smart enough to realize who has built the defence they have today.

  • Suzette

    WHAT A SOMBER ARTICLE, AND YET IT IS ALL TOO TRUE! WHETHER ONE STATES IT OR NOT … OBAMA IS NO FRIEND TO ISRAEL NOR IS HE A FRIEND TO AMERICA! OBAMA IS TOTALLY IGNORANT OR IN AGREEMENT TO THE DANGERS OF ISIS. WITH HIS IGNORANCE OBAMA THINKS THAT JOINING WITH ISIS WILL TURN THESE SNAKES INTO LAMBS! WHAT A FOOLISH IDEA! IT IS REALLY QUITE STAGGERING TO SEE SO MANY AMERICANS FALLING INTO THIS TRAP!

    THE REASONS THAT YOU GIVE FOR BIBI BEING CONDEMMED ARE THE VERY REASONS THAT HE IS SO DESPERATELY NEEDED TO SHIELD ISRAEL FROM HER ENEMIES! THERE IS NO GOOD TO BE OBTAINED BY HAVING A PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL BOWING TO OBAMA AND THUS JOINING WITH OBAMA! ALL THAT THIS WILL ACCOMPLISH IS MORE DESTRUCTION FOR ISRAEL AND MORE DESTRUCTION FOR AMERICA! BOTH OF OUR COUNTRIES NEED PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU TO HOLD THE REINS AGAINST THE HORRID EVIL OF IRAN!

    MAY GOD BLESS ISRAEL AS HER PEOPLE VOTE FOR THEIR FUTURE, AND MAY CHRISTIAMS ALL OVER THE WORLD CONTINUE TO PRAY FOR ISRAEL TO BE BLESSED AS ONLY GOD CAN BLESS!

  • Leo Toystory

    It would boggle the mind that so many Jews in Israel would be stupid enough to be influenced by an anti-Israel, pro-islam, racialist, afro-centric, lying, Marxist soul brother of Huey Newton president, but then over half of the Jews in the US have been stupid enough to do so twice.

  • Linda Rivera

    Algemeiner, I’m very, very sorry. Please DELETE my last comment. I copied and pasted the comment I made on barenakedislam and just now discovered to my horror that somehow I copied and pasted other people’s comments. Please accept my apologies and DELETE the comment. I have no way of deleting this myself. I didn’t know I had done this until I saw it printed out. How awful.

  • Linda Rivera

    Why is evil Turkey, a member of NATO?

    Why are Monsters — the Children of the Devil, allowed into our countries by our leaders? So that they can perpetrate mass genocides?

    http://www.ayfcanada.org
    Turkish-Canadian Groups Celebrate Armenian Genocide

    OTTAWA – The annual Armenian Genocide Memorial Day protest in front of the Turkish embassy was met with 50 Turkish-Canadian counter-protesters denying the well-established actuality of the Armenian Genocide. The group quickly turned to singing and jubilant chanting at the face of the Armenians.

    Further to this shameful act, the group was clearly attempting to incite a confrontation with their Armenian counterparts to undermine the annual gathering. Repeated name calling and general insults towards the Armenians could be heard from across the barrier….
    http://www.ayfcanada.org/press-releases/turkish-canadian-groups-celebrate-armenian-genocide/

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdNHw6zRZfw

  • Linda Rivera

    Muslim savages in Turkey CELEBRATE GENOCIDE, Celebrate Evil

    http://armenianweekly.com
    Banners Celebrating Genocide Displayed in Turkey
    February 23, 2015

    Anti-Armenian Protests Held in Istanbul

    ISTANBUL (A.W.)—Anti-Armenian banners celebrating the Armenian Genocide have begun to appear around Turkey and, on Feb. 22, two protests were held under the banner of “Demonstrations Condemning the Khojali Genocide and Armenian Terror,” in the Kadikoy and Beyoglu districts in Istanbul. Some protesters chanted anti-Armenian slogans, while others invoked the name of Ogun Samast, the ultra-nationalist youth who gunned down Agos Editor Hrant Dink in 2007.

    A banner in the southwest province of Mugla reads, “We celebrate the 100th anniversary of our country being cleared of Armenians. We are proud of our glorious ancestors. -Young Atsizs.” (Atsizs refers to Nihal Atsiz, a leading ideologue of Turkish racism and a proponent of Turanism).

    Similar banners were also displayed in Manisa (north of Izmir) and Ordu (on the Black Sea coast). Demokrat Haber also reports that similar posters were put up by the mayor’s office in Sogutlucesme, Istanbul, as well as on Marmara University’s Goztepe campus.

    “The Human Rights Association can only attempt to raise a voice protesting these initiatives. As long as the Turkish public is not upset, and feels no shame by these demonstrations, the discourse, and the slogans, there will be no real response to these rabid anti-Armenian initiatives,” human rights activist Ayse Gunaysu told the Armenian Weekly, adding, “This reality has been haunting me in recent days.”…

    In Kadikoy, an anonymous source observed around 1,000-1,500 protesters, many waving Azerbaijani flags. The source said aside from nationalist slogans, and chants about the “Khojali genocide,” anti-Kurdish slogans were also heard, presumably fueled by the recent killing of an ultra-nationalist man who had joined an attack against members of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) in Izmir.

    Anti-Armenian sentiments were on the rise, and that racist graffiti had been spray-painted on and near churches, with such messages as “You are all Armenians, you are all bastards.”
    http://armenianweekly.com/2015/02/23/celebrating-genocide/

  • Dr.M.Otero

    It would help much if Bibi would rent out his family home and ask his wife to be accountable to an accountant. All that ice cream suggests bad eating habits and self-indulgence. With some young families moving abroad for lack of affordable housing and high living costs, by any sign of his concern might have helped. One may remember how modestly most of our earlier leaders lived. Bibi has ushered in some of the virtues of capitalism, but his grandiose life style is a dog eat dog message which is not one of those virtues that capitalist leaders should fail to adapt to Israel’s culture.

  • The leftists in Israel are supported by the New Israel Fund and Jstreet that are both working with the Muslim Brotherhood in the BDS movement. So if the Zionist Union wins it means the Muslim Brotherhood will be in or part of the new Israeli government.

  • Jack

    “Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you,” is not Yogi Berra. It’s from Joseph Heller’s “Catch 22.”

  • Reb.Shmuley: So move to Israel!

  • Linda Rivera

    Last week The New York Times reported that President Obama feels close to President Erdogan of Turkey. They are Muslim brothers so of course, Obama feels close to Erdogan. Erdogan is a close ally and enabler of ISIS savages. Obama and Erdogan are dedicated to global Islamic conquest, Israel’s destruction and Jewish annihilation. To vote against Netanyahu is to vote for the above.

  • Eitan Rosenberg

    We are supposed to take political advice from a guy who writes “Kosher Sex?”

  • Very smart analysis. There is indeed a stark choice here. It seems left-leaning folk are on the brink of making the same errors they did in the 1930’s. There are none so blind as those who will not see. Thank you, Rabbi Boteach, for the cogent and gutsy argument here.

  • It seems that the agreement that President Obama is about to sign with the Ayatollas is a punishment against “Rebellious Judaea” (Rome´s name for ancient Israel). The US is not alone in this dangerous plot. Having lost any leftovers of guilt for the Holocaust, Europe has great enthusiasm backing this plan.

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