The Middle East Heats Up; Tensions Are Mounting

1. How likely?
2. Should it really read: Israel vs. Iran?
With reports today of an attack on a Syrian chemical weapons base, presumably by Israel, tensions are mounting precipitously.
Israel neither confirmed nor denied that it was responsible, but has consistently stated that it will not permit “game changing” weapons to be introduced into either Syria or Lebanon. Israel acted on this policy ten years ago when it destroyed a nuclear reactor then under construction in Syria. Israel also acknowledged today that during the past few years it had undertaken at least 100 attacks on weapons being transferred to Hezbollah in Lebanon, mainly from Iran through Syria.
Here are several news stories on today’s developments:
From the Jerusalem Post:
Israel Hayom: Vanquish the enemy
Where does this leave us?
– Iran is inundating the Middle East with weapons, including precision-guided missiles that pose a direct threat to Israel;
– In light of Israel’s actions to destroy these weapons before they reach Hezbollah in Lebanon, Iran is now building weapons manufacturing facilities in Syria;
– As Iran stays on its path to threaten Israel from Syria and Lebanon, Israel has emphatically stated it will not permit Iran to complete it’s Shi’ite sphere of influence “belt” spanning from Iran to Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea and on the Golan Heights;
– Russia is now the main power in Syria, and it appears that the US has accepted this new reality, stepping back from serious military involvement and confrontation, unwilling to thwart Iranian expansionism;
– Israel is currently in the middle of extensive war games in the north, and the war of words between Israel and Hezbollah has increased to fever-pitch levels.
Many Israelis are saying that it is not a question of whether there will be another war with Hezbollah, but only a question of when, and whether Israel should preempt. No doubt, Israel has learned much and its military has improved by orders of magnitude since its previous Lebanon campaigns. But, Hezbollah has also gained tremendous experience through its fighting in Syria, is armed to the teeth with an estimated 150,000 missiles, many precision-guided, aimed at Israel, and has the backing of Iran. For all intents and purposes, Hezbollah has taken over Lebanon, and Israel has threatened that in the next war, all of Lebanon will be a target, not just Hezbollah positions.
With nuclear madness out of North Korea, Iran’s drive to become a nuclear power and for Middle East hegemony, Russia’s rise as the main power broker in Syria, and tensions mounting between Israel and its enemies, the upcoming winter may be a hot one.

Helen Freedman Letter to Editor, Jewish Press
LBJ And Israel
Jason Maoz’s excellent front-page essay on President Johnson and Israel was filled with information with which the American Jewish community should be familiar, but probably is not.
Johnson’s early involvement with saving Jews from the Holocaust as a member of Congress, followed decades later by his dramatic upgrading of military aid to Israel and refusal to pressure Israel to withdraw from territory won during the 1967 Six-Day War, testify to his adherence to his grandfather’s lesson: “Take care of the Jews…. Consider them your friends and help them any way you can.”
Maoz notes that widespread domestic opposition to America’s involvement in Vietnam led Johnson to forgo seeking reelection in 1968; Johnson bitterly described an encounter with American rabbis who came to him to campaign against the Vietnam war, which he felt was essential to saving a “small nation in constant peril.”
Today we have rabbis of the Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist movements announcing a boycott of a pre-Rosh Hashanah presidential conference call because of their disagreement with President Trump’s statements regarding the violence in Charlottesville.
The rabbis’ treatment of the president – who, like Johnson, has signaled concern for the Jewish people and Israel – is reprehensible. Just as the rabbis who descended on Johnson to urge him to abandon Vietnam, disregarding his admirable efforts vis-à-vis Israel, these modern-day rabbis are refusing to speak to President Trump, disregarding his admirable efforts and statements regarding Israel.
Clearly, the Charlottesville incident is simply an excuse for these leaders to guide their congregations in a partisan political path that has nothing to do with Judaism. May the month of Elul, and their penitential prayers, help them to see the light.
Helen Freedman
Americans for a Safe Israel/AFSI
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