U.S. President Barack Obama has sent a letter to the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei requesting Iran’s support in the battle against ISIS. At a time when Israel’s relationship with the American administration is strained, the letter (which was apparently sent back in October and whose existence was recently reported by the Wall Street Journal) has sparked a great deal of reaction.
Stopping the Islamic State is and should be a global priority, but the softening of attitudes toward Iran’s regime is a concern. While there appears to be some progress in talks on Iran’s nuclear program – negotiations that are rapidly approaching a Nov. 24 deadline for an agreement – the hatred directed at Israel is as vibrant as ever. Just days ago, Khamenei tweeted an infographic titled “9 Key Questions About Elimination of Israel.”
The graphic design is better than the English grammar, but the message is unmistakable. No less than ever – and regardless of what we may read suggesting schisms in the highest reaches of the regime – the top leader is as committed as he ever was to the annihilation of Israel.
While insisting that, “of course, the elimination of Israel does not mean the massacre of Jewish people in the region,” the emphatic message is, put mildly, unwelcoming. Still, the world seems convinced that it’s a bluff. To see events at the United Nations, one would think it was Israel that was threatening to obliterate another member-state. Commentators dismiss destructive rhetoric like Khamenei’s as propaganda for domestic consumption, but most Jews, and anyone with a sense of history, take seriously threats like this at any time, but particularly in the week that we commemorate both the 76th anniversary of Kristallnacht and Remembrance Day.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry insists any Iran overture is unrelated to the broader issues of the Middle East, as if the interconnected web of intrigues, hatreds and alliances could be unraveled from one another. And then, as if there are not enough issues in the world with which to be concerned, European states are lining up to recognize the “state of Palestine.” These legally meaningless but symbolic votes by Britain and Sweden, with more legislatures intending to follow suit, are meant to force negotiations toward a two-state solution, with an underlying assumption that Israel is to blame for the lack of progress. All the incitement to violence by Palestinian leaders and the recent upsurge in vehicular murders and stabbings of Israelis are blamed on the Israelis themselves, who must somehow deserve what they get.
Often, commentators, including Kerry recently, state that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the lynchpin to resolving the broader conflict in the region. By obsessing about Israel, the UN, European powers and others are wasting their energies on a sideshow while the feature presentations get short shrift.