In a pre-Hanukkah interview, Netanyahu noted that without the revolt celebrated in Hanukkah, neither Judaism nor an independent Jewish state would exist today. And neither would Christianity.
Iran Deal: Threat to Israel, Arabs, and the US
The week before Hanukkah, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was interviewed by Michael Doran of the Hudson Institute. Doran opened the interview by suggesting that former President Barack Obama’s flawed Iran deal was the negative impetus that led to President Trump’s ability to broker the Abraham Accords normalizing relations between Israel and Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Netanyahu agreed, claiming that “the nuclear deal with Iran was endangering them. Obviously, it endangered our very existence, but it also endangered them. And that it was probably against American interests as well…”
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known commonly as the Iran nuclear deal signed in 2015 essentially paved the way for an Iranian nuclear weapons program, allowing them to openly produce an unlimited number of nuclear weapons four years from now. Immediately upon signing the JCPOA, Iran received an influx of billions of dollars, allowing them to sponsor terrorism and engage in regional expansion that includes a strong military presence in Iraq and Syria. Iran is also supporting the Houthi rebellion in Yemen which has created a major humanitarian crisis. The Iranian military has been testing intercontinental ballistic missiles despite the program being in contravention of agreements with the UNSC. President Trump removed the US from the agreement whereas Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have explicitly stated their intention to return to the deal. This nuclear program of the Shiite non-Arab Iranian regime posed a threat to Israel but also to the Sunni Arab Gulf states whose oil lifeline passed through the Strait of Hormuz which is geographically dominated by Iran.
Address to Congress: Out of Character for Jews?
Doran asked Netanyahu about his decision to address the US Congress in March 2015, expressing Israel’s concerns about Obama’s impending deal with Iran.
“I’m not Jewish, but I have a lot of friends here in the United States who are, including friends who are strong supporters of yours,” Doran said to Netanyahu.” But I noticed at the time of the speech, that the fact that you were making, the fact that you were disagreeing with the president of the United States so vocally made them very, very uneasy. I love the speech. I wrote an oped praising it, but my Jewish colleagues were very uneasy. And as one of them said to me, ‘2,000 years of history have taught us that you shouldn’t clash with kings’.”
“If you have your disagreements, you express them quietly behind the scenes,” Doran continued. “It seems to me that that’s a very deeply ingrained Jewish attitude. And I wonder when you were making this decision, did you feel that you were going against the grain of the 2,000 years of Jewish teaching? And did that bother you?”
Netanyahu’s answer highlighted the difference between the attitude of Jews living in the exile as temporarily tolerated strangers within versus the attitude of Jews living in the sovereign Promised Land, as God intended.
“Well, for one thing, I think Jewish history is a little more complex than that. It goes back actually almost 4,000 years,” Netanyahu responded to Doran. “Next week we’re marking down one episode alone, just one example of resistance to kings without which we wouldn’t be here today. It’s called the Hanukkah, it’s the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire and Antiochus. Without that revolt, there wouldn’t be Judaism, there wouldn’t be Christianity either. I think that that’s a general rule that I wouldn’t forge at all, including in modern times when we had to resist the British policy without which we would not have an independent state. That’s the first.”
“The second thing is I wasn’t there dealing with the king. I was dealing with the elected president of our great valued ally, the United States, and we’re a family. And within a family, you can have disagreements, that happens in every family. It happened in this one. I respected President Obama, but I disagreed with him on one or two points. This was one of them where I thought that the existence of Israel was on the line. And when the existence of Israel is on the line, then I have to do what I can to secure our future and that’s what I did.”
Teach Bible as History
Netanyahu waxed religious again later in the interview, saying that for Israel’s national good, he believed it was important to emphasize the study of the Bible, specifically studying the Bible as a historical source.
“The Bible is the reason we’re here. That’s why we’re not in Denmark or wherever. Or somewhere else. Obviously, it’s an important foundation of our own traditions and raison d‘être. And I think it’s also part of the tradition of the Western world and the emergence of our modern world — the emergence of freedom. I think that these are anchored in two founts really, and two cities, one right here, Jerusalem, and the other is in Athens. These are the foundations of Western civilization that helped change the world. I think, too, that that’s important for the United States as well, not in a religious sense, but in the sense of values.”
Caroline Glick New Age Left-Wing Anti-Semitism
Caroline Glick, a well-respected political pundit, commented on the interview, noting that it implied a major shift for US Jews. She described pre- and post- World War II anti-Semitism as coming from the extreme right-wing politically.
“Fifty years later, at the start of this century, things began slipping back,” Glick wrote. “The Golden Age began to rust. It wasn’t the WASP elite of yesteryear that rejected the civil rights of Jews. It was the new progressive elite that began undermining the Jews’ position as they moved from the margins of American society to center stage. Like the Soviets, who exchanged the old anti-Jewish bigotry that rejected Jews as individuals for the new anti-Jewish bigotry that rejected Jews as a nation, the progressives rejected Israel’s right to exist and ostracized Jews who embraced their attachment to the Jewish people and homeland.”
“The progressive elite are now the new American elite. Now in charge, they have dusted off the old anti-Semitism of the WASP elites and updated it. Whereas the old elite anti-Semitism involved the social and financial ostracism of Jews due to their religion, today’s elite anti-Semitism involves the social and financial ostracism of Jews due to politics and racism.”
Glick noted the opne anti-Semitism of some left-wing movements such as the feminist and Black Lives Matter movement. Glick drew a parallel between the “new American elite” on the political left and the anti-Israel Greeks from which secularism draws its roots.
“This elite progressive anti-Semitism isn’t expressed only as hatred for Israel and Jews who support Israel. It is also characterized by a sneering contempt for Judaism and Jewish practices—for instance, the practice of celebrating Hanukkah.”