Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “keenly wanted to strike at Iran earlier this year but was ultimately overwhelmed by widespread opposition,” David Horovitz, founding editor of the Times of Israel news website and former editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post, told the Hadassah Centennial Convention on Wednesday.
Opposition to the idea came from Israel’s security establishment and its president, and from the US administration, he said.
“I believe it would be extremely hard for Netanyahu to mount an air strike against Iran without US support,” said Horovitz, “and there is no US support for such a strike.”
Horovitz was speaking during a panel discussion on the Jewish World’s approach to the central narrative of existence, together with Dr. Ephraim Zuroff, director of the Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, and Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, chief rabbi of Efrat. The panelists were introduced by Hadassah moderator, Debbie Mazon, a national vice president.
Horovitz added that the window of opportunity for Israel to act on its own was about to close and that afterwards Israel would be dependent on the US to take action.
Horovitz said while there were also major challenges underlying the fragility of the region, such as the 32,000 people who had been killed by the leader of Syria, he saw the installment of new ambassadors for Egypt and Jordan as a positive development.
Changing topics, Horovitz said he worried about “the stagnation of the Palestinians. We need to separate from the Palestinians; we need to encourage a climate in which a moderate atmosphere can flourish.”
Internally, he said the economy was thriving, but there was a large gap between the haves and the have nots in Israeli society. He added that Israeli Arabs had to be more of an intrinsic part of society. He also emphasized the importance of solving the divisions between the ultra-Orthodox and the rest of the population.
Concluding his remarks, he said that Hadassah represented “everything that is good about our nation building” and that it “is critical to our well-being both literally and figuratively.”
Zuroff introduced himself as “the world’s last Nazi hunter” and said he was often asked whether it wasn’t time to stop pursuing surviving Nazis, who were necessarily very advanced in age by now. The Brooklyn-born Zuroff said he believed the passage of time and old age did not diminish the guilt of a murderer. Besides, he felt he owed it to the victims and that bringing Nazis to justice would deter other potential killers of Jews.
Zuroff said that never in his decades-long career had he witnessed a single captured Nazi express regret or remorse.
As for the mission of preserving the memory of the Holocaust, Zuroff said the UN 2005 resolution to declare an International Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27 was an important development that could not have been imagined years earlier. However, there was a new kind of Holocaust denial that was cause for concern.
“There is a trend in Eastern European countries to hide the crimes of the locals under the crimes of the Nazis,” he said. “Furthermore, there is a claim that the crimes of communism are just as bad and therefore the Holocaust was not the worst genocide.
“This argument acquits those nations in two ways: one, they want to continue to be victims, not killers. Also, many communists were Jews. Therefore, if communism is genocide, Jews committed genocide. And if everyone is guilty, no one is guilty.
“It is a major challenge to preserve the accuracy of the Jewish narrative,” he concluded.
Riskin, who left his Lincoln Square Synagogue in Manhattan to make aliya in 1983, said it was “crucially necessary” for Jews to have their own state in order to teach the world the lessons of “compassionate righteousness and moral justice” taught by the Torah.
He related how Theodore Herzl had believed that the State would completely cure the problem of anti-Semitism. After the 1967 Six-Day War, “the world was cheering us. Now, coming from Israel is considered quite unpopular in most of our universities. Suicide bombers in the minds of liberal people are freedom fighters. Today, it is difficult and dangerous to be a Jew.”
He rebutted the idea that Israel was an apartheid nation, saying, “We give Arabs many more freedoms than they would get in any Arab country in the world.”
He labeled fundamental Islam “monosatanism” and Judaism “ethical monotheism.”
Touching on the discussion in Israel that “you don’t have to be Orthodox to be Jewish,” he said that Judaism, at its very core, believed in pluralism, “but the present establishment is ultra, ultra, ultra-Orthodox and, in my opinion, the antithesis of Jewish teachings,” adding that religious political parties were disastrous for both religion and politics.
Riskin called the Israel Defense Forces “the most moral army in the history of warfare” and called on the Hadassah audience to counter lies and hate speech against Israel.
“Hadassah sanctifies God’s name every day, not only for Israelis but also for Arabs,” he said.