It seems to be the view of the Obama administration that if Israel wants America to help the Jewish state maintain its qualitative military edge, Jerusalem had best shut up in respect of Munich. That has emerged in the uproar over President Obama’s suggestion that Israel somehow had come to agree with the articles of appeasement the President agreed to with the regime in Iran. In Mr. Obama’s version, the military and intelligence communities in Israel were on his side on the Iran pact.
The suggestion, of course, is misleading. There may be some dissidents in Israel’s vibrant democracy, but the democratically elected leadership of the country opposed the Iran deal and still does. The prime minister opposed it at the time. The defense minister did as well. And so, incidentally, did the very liberal leader of the opposition Zionist Union, Isaac Herzog (the son of a president of Israel). So did a majority of both houses of the United States Congress. None has changed its mind.
Israel’s defense ministry, now headed by Avidgdor Lieberman, put out a statement noting that the Munich pact “didn’t prevent the Second World War and the Holocaust precisely because its basis, according to which Nazi Germany could be a partner for some sort of agreement, was flawed.” It marked the fact that “the leaders of the world then ignored the explicit statements of Hitler and the rest of Nazi Germany’s leaders.” Those things, the ministry said “are also true about Iran, which also clearly states openly that its aim is to destroy the state of Israel.”
This reportedly infuriated the President — so much so that, according to dispatch in the Jewish Press, the American envoy in Jerusalem, Dan Shapiro, told Mr. Lieberman “directly” that “unless he wants his name on the failure of the American military aid deal, he must apologize ASAP.” The result was an apology, of sorts, from Mr. Lieberman, who claimed that his ministry’s earlier statement “was not intended to make a direct comparison, neither historically nor personally” with the Munich pact.
“We are sorry if it was interpreted otherwise,” the statement said, adding that the dispute does not diminish Israel’s “deep appreciation” for America. To us, at least, it is shocking that the Obama administration takes such umbrage at criticism of the Iran pact. Mr. Obama started this latest imbroglio by trying to palm off on a noble public the idea that Israel supports the pact. It doesn’t support it. And the degree of umbrage he took over the analogy to Munich is an over-reaction. The President protests too much.
No one has suggested Mr. Obama is an anti-Semite or disloyal to America. Just that he entered into an appeasement with similarities to Munich. Both Munich and the Iran appeasement excluded from the parley the enemy’s target — Czechoslovakia in 1938 and Israel today. The exclusion of the Czechs from participation in Munich lead to Jan Masaryk to utter his immortal warning: “If you have sacrificed my nation to preserve the peace of the world, I will be the first to applaud you. But if not, gentlemen, God help your souls.”
President Obama could have insisted on a formula that would have addressed that feature of Munich. The lineup against the Iranians included the five permanent members of the Security Council plus — of all countries — Germany. Why not, we’ve asked, Israel? The answer is that the administration did not want, or dare, to include Israel. It was treating with an enemy of Israel. It was prepared to sacrifice Israel for its wider goal of appeasing the ayatollahs. It would be more honest for it to admit the truth than to explode at Israel — and threaten its aid — for pointing out the obvious.