It’s not every day you read an article like this (Hebrew) in the Israeli press. Leading settler Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, one of the most senior of the religious Zionist rabbis, attacks the idea of an Israeli assault on Iran and rejects the notion that a nuclear Iran is an existential threat to Israel. In fact, he says, it is only one of many threats Israel faces and not necessarily the most dangerous. Because of that, the rabbi rejects the notion that a military attack on that nation is warranted.
He calls Ehud Barak and Bibi Netanyahu leaders with “inflated egos” and says ego and other personal motivations are propelling an attack. Melamed recommends that all other ministers voting on this issue should act in a calm, deliberate manner and not get carried away by the defense and prime minister’s fervor for war. He argues that Netanyahu suffers from a “trust gap,” and that the latter believes a successful attack against Iran will transform him into one of the great leaders of Israel on a par with Ben Gurion or Begin. For that reason, Bibi’s desire for personal glory and his motives must be distrusted.
Barak’s career, Melamed argues, is in free fall in contrast to his dreams of being a great leader, security expert, and figure capable of resolving international crises. The defense minister’s only opportunity to return to political leadership and become a winner in the eyes of the populace is through a successful assault on Iran.
Rabbi Melamed argues that while the impulse by nations to gain nuclear capability is undesirable, it appears impossible to prevent. He writes that even if Israel succeeded in destroying Iran’s nuclear program it would only delay that country gaining a weapon. In the rabbi’s view, Israel’s efforts should be directed not at attacking Iran, but at creating anti-missile defenses that could stop any Iranian attack on Israel. He favors deterrence over attack.
What’s especially important here is that Melamed is a settler rabbi, beloved of the nationalist camp. He favors all the things that my readers and I oppose in the Territories. But he carries great sway with those MKs and ministers who share his views. Therefore, he may carry weight in the debate over attacking Iran. As I’ve written before, I don’t care about the motivation for opposing an Iran strike. Taking the right position is more important than ideological purity. We can always oppose Rabbi Melamed on those issues that divide us at a later time.