‘Victory for National Security’

In the JT’s article “Good or Bad?” (July 24), the BJC’s Cailey Locklair Tolle is right to find the inspections regimen positive.  But she also said: “Right now nothing stops. The centrifuges are still spinning.  Uranium is still being enriched.”  While this might be factually correct, it is extremely misleading, for Iran has agreed to give up most of its capacity (14,000 of its 20,000 centrifuges) and will only be allowed to enrich uranium in small percentages (3.67 percent) while weapons-grade uranium requires 90 percent enrichment.

Arms control experts (and numerous former members of Israel’s defense establishment) are quite supportive of the deal.  For instance, Joe Cirincione, president of Ploughshares Fund, a leading global security foundation, says, “This is a very good deal.  It is a major victory for American national security. The beauty of this deal is that Iran gets to keep its buildings, and we get to take out all the furniture.”

To summarize: Iran and the international community have agreed to measures that will ensure Iran will not be able to obtain a crude nuke for 10 years or longer with unprecedented inspections and the threat of snapback sanctions that will prevent it from cheating. This makes the region, Israel and the U.S. safer and is good for all concerned.  There are no viable alternatives. Congress should support the deal.

Make It an Outlet Mall

There have been a number of ideas kicking around for the last year as to what should become of the empty and failing Owings Mills Mall (Mall Remains Achilles’ Heel,” July 17). I can’t understand why no one has entertained the idea of turning it into an outlet mall such as Arundel Mills — something this area could sorely use. It is far enough away from Arundel Mills and Perryville to thrive, and I believe the demographics will support such a mall. Whoever has the final say should seriously consider this.

A Disastrous Deal

Shame on you, Stephen Arkan, for your uncivil tone in falsely accusing the Zionist Organization of America of preferring “scapegoats to solutions” (Your Say, July 17). Your comments relate to my July 10 Your Say letter (“Oren’s Words Are a Wake-Up Call”) in which I discuss former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s heartfelt analysis of the tectonic rift in U.S.-Israel relations that developed during President Barack Obama’s first term, as detailed in Oren’s new book “Ally, My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide”.

For your information, appropriate “solutions” are best found by correctly identifying the underlying problem. Obama’s particular brand of hostility toward Israel, and his insensitivity to its concerns, no doubt stem from his obsession with reaching out a hand of friendship to radical elements in an Islamic world rent by unbridled hatred and violence.

A relevant case in point: Obama’s headlong rush to legitimize Iran’s development of nuclear weapons that represent a clear existential threat to Israel and, at the same time, granting sanctions relief that economically empowers Iran to set the entire Middle East ablaze. Knowing the problem, the solution becomes transparently obvious: In a bipartisan manner, Congress must resoundingly reject Obama’s disastrous nuclear deal with Iran. In emphatic terms, we must all insist: Members of Congress, vote down this deal!

Listen to Michael Oren

As a noted historian and a member of the Knesset, the views of Michael Oren should have considerable weight (“It’s Time to Stop Demonizing Michael Oren,” July 10). His accurate description of the interaction between President Barack Obama and the leaders of Israel, which have been detrimental to U. S.-Israeli relations, discloses the arrogance of our president. This has been particularly the case when dealing with Israel’s security concerns, now exacerbated by a flawed agreement with Iran that threatens the very existence of Israel.

Michael Oren has reason to be concerned as do all individuals who have been appalled by the concessions given to Iran in return for its establishing in the not-too-distant future a terrorist state equipped with nuclear weapons.

What Are Synagogue’s Motives?

This letter is in response to the unenlightened claims by Janet Abramowitz (Your Say, July 17) about the community’s motivations for opposing the proposed synagogue on Stevenson Road.

The synagogue proposing a building on Stevenson Road is tasked with convincing Baltimore County that the development meets the intent and general welfare of the neighborhood. Their proposed building would encompass 8,000 square feet of space with an equally large occupancy and 22 parking spaces, which clearly does not meet the intent of a residential development. Stevenson is a community without sidewalks, where congregants will be forced to walk on shoulderless roads with limited driver visibility, putting both the congregants’ and the community’s general welfare in jeopardy. In this case, the synagogue’s motives should be challenged, not the Stevenson community.

Israel: Always Alone, Always Excluded

Rarely do remarks on polarizing topics open people’s minds these days, as our nation becomes ever more divided along political fault lines. Yet this month, Rabbi Moshe Hauer connected with nearly 2,000 people who gathered at Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion, an Orthodox synagogue in the heart of Baltimore’s Jewish Community.

He reached people intellectually and emotionally on the difficult subject of the Iran nuclear deal. Although the deal may appear to be done, given the recent approval of the six major world powers and the U.N. Security Council, Congress will vote on it mere days from now. Weaving together biblical references, the Holocaust and modern-day threats to the Middle East, the rabbi reminded everyone of the challenges to the State of Israel, which he described as “the nation that dwells alone.”

Israel was certainly alone during the last six years of secret negotiations.  The U.S. now finds itself on the threshold of approving what amounts to a treaty with Iran, a country that wants to destroy our most important ally in the world’s most volatile region. Israel was also alone, when at the 11th hour, Iran successfully negotiated lifting the embargo on the purchase of conventional weapons systems. Israel was again alone when the demand for “anytime, anywhere” inspections somehow gave way to allowing multinational bureaucrats to set terms and conditions for such inspections.

While acknowledging their importance, Hauer steered clear of these details. Instead, he focused on the consequences of excluding key stakeholders from decisions about “deals” that determine their future. Noting as an example a conference intended to determine the fate of Jewish refugees in 1938, the rabbi noted that only one Jew, Golda Meir, was invited to observe, but not speak.  That’s more than we can say about the Iranian negotiations. Not surprisingly, the refugee conference accomplished nothing and allowed murderous dictators to determine the fate of Jews by default in that critical year.

The infamous Munich agreement, the hopeless attempt at appeasement in 1938 that bought Hitler time to build his killing infrastructure, is the other deal the rabbi cites as an example.  Negotiated between the German chancellor and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, that deal was sold to the public as “peace for our time” and instead led to World War II and the Holocaust.  Some are now making a far more outrageous claim that 99 percent of the world supports the Iranian
nuclear agreement.

Some members of Maryland’s congressional delegation say they will be studying the Iran deal.  What they should be studying is Hauer’s straightforward explanation on the basics of negotiations and determine for themselves whether conditions were met that account for the interests of Jewish people and Israel.

The public record on Iranian animosity toward Israel is clear. Israel will either get lucky and Iran will become peaceful, flush with oil revenues and weapons, or history will repeat itself.

The Iran Deal’s Many Dangers

Abraham H. Foxman is the former national  director of the Anti-Defamation League.

Abraham H. Foxman is the former national
director of the Anti-Defamation League.

My long tenure as national director of the Anti-Defamation League is at an end. It has been a highly satisfactory and meaningful 28 years as director and 50 years as a professional at this prestigious organization.

So why did I choose to write an article on my last day? It is the same imperative that has motivated me all these years: If I see something troubling to the Jewish people, I cannot be still.

And I am deeply troubled at this time by the agreement between the P5+1 nations and Iran regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

I hear the argument that Iran would be a threshold nuclear state without an agreement. But the truth is, it would have been an illegitimate one that would have justified continued disapproval, sanctions and the threat of a military option against its nuclear program.

That is why the original goal of dismantling Iran’s nuclear infrastructure was not wishful thinking, but a vital part of what needed to be achieved. It was necessary to deny the nuclear legitimacy of a regime that even after reaching an agreement earlier this month still calls for death to America and Israel, fosters terrorism throughout the region and the world and is expanding its sinister deadly influence throughout the Middle East.

Under this deal, either 10 or 15 years down the road, Iran will have a nuclear program legitimized by the international community with the ability to break out quickly to build a bomb. The most dangerous regime in the region should never be given such legitimacy on such a perilous project.

When one adds to that the rapid ending of sanctions, most likely within six months, this will significantly add to Iran’s mischief-making power in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and Gaza.

The argument that Congress needs to support the deal because sanctions will dissipate even if it doesn’t is not sufficient. The Iranian regime needs to be looked at with a clear eye. Congress can and should try to find ways to overcome the serious flaws in this deal.

There has been much discussion about how Iran has lived up to its commitments since the framework agreement. But that’s because its main goal was to have sanctions lifted. Once sanctions are removed,a duplicitous regime that has never admitted to seeking a weapon will surely find ways to circumvent the agreement despite inspections and snapback provisions.

It is not easy to dismiss Israeli concerns as right-wing overreaction when Isaac Herzog, Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni all condemn the deal. This is a time for Congress to recognize and act on those concerns to ensure Israel can defend itself by itself and to back up the President Barack Obama’s pledge that “the U.S. has
Israel’s back.”

A better deal should have been struck, and it is not a policy to say this is the best we have.

I hope this critical debate over the next 60 days is conducted in a civil manner. Those who oppose the deal should not criticize the administration’s motives in reaching an agreement. On the other hand, the administration should desist from the kinds of demagogic accusations and insinuations claiming that opponents of the deal are warmongers.

Let’s get this right. Whatever the outcome, let it be a triumph for the democratic process.

A Poll for Everyone

As in any political campaign, Jewish supporters and opponents of the Iran nuclear agreement are promoting the results of opinion polls to support their position. But how reliable are those polls? And why is it that polling results on the same issue are so dramatically different?

One poll, conducted by the liberal group J Street, which supports the agreement, found that supporters outnumber opponents 60 to 40 percent. A second poll, by The Israel Project, which opposes the Iran deal, found American Jews oppose the deal by 47 to 44 percent. A poll by the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, which has no political affiliation, found more support than opposition: 48 to 28 percent.

The differing results seem to be based upon what is asked and how the questions are framed. To take an example from each: The TIP poll asked the following question three times: “Now that you have some more information, in your own opinion, do you think that Congress should vote to approve the deal and lift sanctions on Iran or reject the deal and NOT lift sanctions on Iran?” The percentage of those rejecting the deal grew each time the question was asked. Similarly, one question in the J Street poll appeared to add information that could bolster support for the agreement.

In contrast, the Jewish Journal poll asked questions that were straightforward. In one, the words “good idea” and “bad idea” were even rotated to eliminate bias: “In retrospect, was it a (good idea) or a (bad idea) for the U.S. to conduct negotiations with Iran, or are you not sure whether it was a good idea or a bad idea?”

Writing in The Hill, veteran Democratic pollster Mark Mellman looked at polling of the American electorate on the issue and likewise found that how questions were worded had a dramatic effect on the results. He concluded that while most Americans are likely to support the easing of economic sanctions against Iran in return for Iran halting its nuclear weapons development — polls revealing American support of the Iran deal tend to frame the issue this way — when provided with details about the deal and the objections raised, most Americans are just as likely to not trust Iran to uphold its end of the bargain.

“A fair interpretation of the data suggests Americans’ natural inclination is to oppose this deal,” he writes, “though they would support an agreement they believed would accomplish supporters’ goals.”

Those considering the Iran agreement and its merits are well advised to focus on the details of the deal and the merit of the answers to questions that have been raised about it. Once you have reached a conclusion on the merits, it won’t be hard to find a poll that will support that view.

What’s Next for Pollard?

Israelis call for the release of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard during President Barack Obama’s visit to Jerusalem in 2013.

Israelis call for the release of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard during President Barack Obama’s visit to Jerusalem in 2013.

Thirty years after he was arrested outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, former Navy analyst Jonathan Pollard is expected to be paroled from a federal prison in North Carolina on Nov. 20.

The day of his release may prove to be Pollard’s Rip Van Winkle moment. Although the convicted spy for Israel has not been asleep since 1985, the brash 31-year-old who provided “material that was of such high quality, so accurate and so important to the security of the state,” according to his Israeli handler, is likely to find at 61 that much of the world he knew has changed.

Yet, the deep questions of dual loyalty regarding Pollard’s actions persist. News of his impending release set off volleys of commentary arguing, on one side, that Pollard remains a traitor who damaged the United States and got what he deserved, and on the other side, that the life sentence he received for a single count of spying for a friendly country was grossly disproportionate.

Will these arguments be put to rest once Pollard is a free man? Or will they continue due to the terms of his parole that require him to stay in the United States for the next five years? From published reports, it appears that Pollard wants to make aliyah with his wife, Esther. And it is here that President Barack Obama could show a true act of kindness.

Pollard’s parole after 30 years was pretty much mandated by federal guidelines. So, the fact that the administration didn’t object to the parole decision isn’t major news. Waiving roadblocks that would otherwise prevent Pollard from moving to Israel, however, would be a welcome gesture by the president.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear likely. As much as people are trying to frame the impending release as a humanitarian gesture or a way of placating an Israel angry at the recently concluded nuclear deal with Iran, letting him free but not letting him go to Israel is an incomplete act, and unnecessary.

The sordid Pollard story adds focus to how things have changed between Israel and the United States over the last 30 years. Three decades ago, Israel, though an ally, was mistrusting enough to allow an American analyst with qualms about his nation’s handling of intelligence relating to the Jewish state to betray his own country. But the moves were all covert. Today, the bilateral mistrust has ruptured into open and vehement disagreement over broader policy differences, including the Iran deal.While allowing Pollard to rebuild his life in Israel will not solve any of those issues, it might help decrease the rising tensions between two friends.

Answering Unanswered Prayers Parshat Va’etchanan

Did you ever really pray for something you wanted? I mean, really fervently, desperately pray
hard for something that was vitally important to you?

If you did, and I think we all pray this way at moments of urgency, you violated an anonymous piece of
wisdom: “Be careful what you pray for, because you just might get it.”

I have not been able to determine who said that. But I know clearly what he meant. In my own life, I have had more than one occasion to look back at answered prayers, which achieved what turned out to be very trivial objectives. And I have certainly been disappointed in prayer, only to learn that in the long run, I was much better off without the benefits of whatever I prayed for so earnestly.

We think we know what is good for us, we think we know what we need, but we really don’t. Often, we are much the better for having certain prayers rebuffed and we frequently discover that the things we thought were important are not important at all.

In the Torah portion that we read in the synagogue this week, Moses confides to us how he powerfully
beseeched the Almighty, begging Him to reverse His decision to frustrate Moses’ greatest dream, that he be permitted to enter the Promised Land. Moses uses a synonym for prayer, chanan, which connotes
imploring, pleading for the undeserved favor, matnat chinam.

But Moses is denied his dream. His petition is torn up in his face. His is the archetypal unanswered prayer.

Joel Cohen, in his book ”Moses, a Memoir,” puts these poignant words in the mouth of Moses: “I lowered my knees and begged Him once again. I could muster no tears this time. … I needed badly to reach and walk about the land He promised to Abraham for us, so long ago… My work is incomplete. My prophecy has achieved no reality for me in my lifetime. … There will be no future for me. My staff, the instrumentality of miracles against His enemies, is powerless against His will.”Beautifully put.

What are we to learn from the story of the unanswered prayer of the humblest, but greatest, of men? Many things, in my opinion.

We learn that the gates of prayer are not always open. In the words of the midrash, they are sometimes open but sometimes closed. And we are not to rely upon them exclusively. Rather, we are to do our own part to achieve our objectives in mundane ways.

Judaism insists upon a balance between faith in the divine and the exercise of practical human effort.
It acknowledges that while there must be bitachon, trust in the Lord, there must also be hishtadlut, old-fashioned hard work on our part. As the rabbis have it, never rely upon miracles.

We can never allow prayer to become a substitute for our doing all we can do. We must not simply expect the Almighty to achieve Jewish sovereignty for us, but must do our parts politically and militarily. We cannot expect manna from heaven, but must earn our livelihoods by dint of the sweat of our brow. And when we are ill, yes, we must pray, but we must also diligently seek out competent medical assistance.

There are other lessons, to be sure, to be learned from the unanswered prayer of Moses. His grave remains a secret, so that it not become a shrine and that he not be idolized or heaven forbid, deified. For another important lesson about prayer from the Jewish perspective, is that we pray to the One Above only, and not to saints and holy men, be they alive or be they dead. Cemeteries are not synagogues.

By not granting Moses his request, the Master of the Universe was in effect telling him that he did all that he could, and that no more is expected of him. Humans are expected to do all they can, and not necessarily to
accomplish everything.

“It is not necessary for you to complete the task, but neither are you exempt from doing all that you can.”

Moses is being told, “You did all you could, even if you did not achieve all of your personal ambitions.” No human is complete, no man is perfect.

And then there is a final lesson, one that we learn from the very fact that Moses persisted in his prayer,
although he knew well that his request would be spurned. He modeled the importance of hope, even in the face of impossible odds.

Jewish history contains a long list of Moses-like figures, whose vision it was to enter the Holy Land. They include men like the Gaon Elijah of Vilna, who longed to spend the last years of his life in Eretz Yisrael. And closer to our time, the great sage Yisrael Meir Kagan, the Chofetz Chaim, prayed and carefully planned to live out his life in Israel.

Ironically, they, like Moses, had their dreams frustrated by the Hand of Providence. Like Moses, they
were ready to try almost anything to realize their ambitions. And like Moses, who was told that he would not enter the land but his disciple Joshua would, various leaders of Jewish history, however reluctantly, took comfort in the fact that their disciples realized their dream in their stead.

This is possibly the most important lesson of all. When our prayers go unanswered for ourselves, they may yet be answered for our children and grandchildren.

Unanswered prayers are mysteriously answered, in inscrutable and unpredictable ways.