Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu:
It’s no secret that you are deeply concerned, and not without merit, about Iran’s recent nuclear agreement with the P5+1. Like you, I am no fan of the Iranian regime, its human rights abuses, or the staunchly anti-American, anti-Israeli, and anti-Jewish rhetoric it spews. That said, I have observed and read about your actions over the course of your political career, and as a Jew looking at them through the lens of current geopolitical realities, I feel you are a greater threat to our people than Iran is.
I know that it sounds outrageous to consider the leader of the world’s only Jewish state a greater threat to his people than a tyrannical regime committed to the destruction of said state. For that reason, I’d like to point out that Article 13 of the Iranian Constitution explicitly grants Jews, along with Christians and Zoroastrians, freedom of religion. Although discrimination against Iranian Jews is otherwise common, the fact remains that with a population of roughly 9,000 Jews, the Islamic Republic is home to one of the Muslim world’s largest Jewish communities, second only to Turkey.
Although Jews are not fully equal to Muslims in Iran, the country nonetheless has a historical legacy of religious tolerance, notably towards Jews. As the son of the prominent Jewish historian, Benzionn Netanyahu, you should be aware that in ancient times, it was the Achaemenid Persian Empire under Cyrus the Great who not only allowed the Jews to return to the Promised Land following the Babylonian Exile, but helped them rebuild their temple. The Persians’ overall tolerance for the Jewish people, particularly under Cyrus, is documented in several parts of the Tanakh, including the Books of Ezra and Second Chronicles. In fact, the Book of Isaiah establishes the ancient Persian king as the only non-Jewish Messiah mentioned in the Hebrew Bible.
While Achaemenid Persia and the current Islamic republic are hardly the same, the current regime has showed some earnestness in letting non-Muslims practice their faith. A prominent example of this regards the country’s alcohol laws. While officially illegal in Iran due to its taboo status under sharia, exemptions are made for Jews and Christians for religious purposes. In fact, the predominantly Christian Armenian minority in Iran dominates the country’s black market for liquor.
Even if I’m wrong and Iran is an existential threat to Israel and the Jewish people, I’d like to remind you, Mr. Netanyahu, that you helped empower Iran in 2002 as a private citizen by testifying in favor of the 2003 invasion of Iraq to Congress. By invading the country and toppling Saddam Hussein, an enemy of Iran, the United States upset the balance of power in the Middle East, giving Iran greater capabilities to expand its influence there. Considering you supported one of the biggest foreign policy mistakes in U.S. history thirteen years ago, it is hard to take you seriously when you say similar things about Iran.
Assuming your fears of Iran are correct, however, Israel is no longer the regional pariah it used to be and does not have to worry about going alone in the event that Iran becomes belligerent. You should remember that Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the other Gulf States also fear a nuclear-armed Iran, and have worked at least unofficially with Israel to undermine Iranian influence in the Middle East. These improved relations with your neighbors, along with your recent cooperation with Hamas to combat Da’ish (more commonly known as ISIS, or ISIL,) have helped make your country’s geopolitical standing better than ever before.
Despite this unprecedented cooperation with your neighbors, you still focus on external threats to Israel, which are nothing compared to the internal threats that you ignore if not exacerbate. Israel’s survival rests on remaining a democracy with a Jewish majority. In order to ensure this continues, a two-state solution establishing an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel is necessary. However, time and again you have failed to take the necessary steps needed to establish such a solution, namely a withdrawal of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Unless the current trajectory changes, Israel will be forced to either absorb the Palestinians as citizens, costing Israel its Jewish majority, or it will have to abolish its democracy at the expense of Israeli Arabs, which will inevitably lead to the Jewish state losing American support and becoming a pariah nation. Both of these scenarios will cause Israel to implode, once again leaving the Jewish people without a homeland of their own.
Although a two-state solution is crucial to Israel’s survival, it’s become increasingly clear that you no longer support one, if you ever did at all. The closest Israel ever came to achieving such an agreement was in the early-to-mid-90s under the premiership of Yitzhak Rabin when you were Leader of the Opposition. During this time, you condoned fiery rhetoric against Rabin, including comparing him to a Nazi, for making necessary concessions for peace in the Oslo Accords, which would inspire Yigal Amir to assassinate Rabin. Your failure to condemn the unwarranted hate leveled at him makes you partially responsible for his death. This, along with your prioritization of ultra-Orthodox and right-wing nationalist Jewish political parties over secular, left-wing, and centrist ones in your coalition governments (the latter of which represent the core of Israeli society) suggest you are little better than the leaders of hostile neighbors that would love nothing more than a second Holocaust.
At a time when Jew-hatred is on the rise in Europe and the United States, it would only make sense you would do more to promote support for Israel among Diaspora Jews. Instead, you’ve done everything in your power to alienate them. From appointing government ministers that deny the Jewishness of Reform Jews to effectively, if not intentionally, disrespecting U.S. President Barack Obama, who is overall popular among American Jews, by violating diplomatic protocols, your actions have only distanced us from Israel, further calling into question the survival of the one safe haven in the world for us. By focusing on the potential threat of a nuclear Iran (which is laughable when you consider Israel has a stronger military than the Islamic Republic and hundreds of nuclear weapons compared to Iran’s absence of them,) while doing nothing to prevent Israel’s current trajectory towards implosion, I feel I can legitimately fear you more than I can Iran.
A Concerned American Jew