LIONEL PODCAST: Why I Support Israel

“Ability hits the mark where presumption overshoots and diffidence falls short.” ― Golda Meir, Israeli teacher, kibbutznik, politician and the fourth Prime Minister of Israel


This lady. The first time I heard it. I’ll never forget that name. Operation Wrath of God. How’s that? Wrath of God. If that doesn’t tell you we mean business what does? Compare it to our beaut of a blood-curdling handle: Operation Enduring Freedom. Enduring freedom?! It sounds like a feminine hygiene protect. For those active days, ladies. Enduring Freedom. Puh-leeze. Golda Meir got my attention. How could someone so grandmotherly have such a steely determination and dangerous resolve? She looked like my Zia Pepina. And how progressive of a country to elect a grandmother when we in this country, allegedly more progressive, still can’t seem to get the job done? But she was front and center. At the helm. Grandma Golda showed the world inestimable action and determination in seeking something she never avoided addressing or admitting — revenge. Who was this woman? Who were these people? We’re a country that argues whether war has to be declared by Congress or whether War Powers Act jurisdiction applies. Executive Order 12333 holds in part: “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” How wimpy. At least until Obama targeted American citizens. But, I digress.

From the beginning. Since it’s birth in 1948 the State of Israel has never known a day without worrying about its safety, especially when surrounded by countries and people who’ve sworn fealty to the notion and the idea of its total demise. Let me repeat: Not a day. It’s an existential threat they know, a threat that we in the US cannot possibly comprehend. And it was 1972 when I, a political tyro all of 14 years old, first became aware of Golda Meir. It was the Munich Olympics massacre where 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team were killed by members of the Palestinian armed terrorist group Black September and PLO operatives. It was my introduction to Arafat and the notion of blood enemy status that I never knew existed. And it all happened live on TV in real time.

Getting serious. Golda Meir, Israel’s fourth prime minister, authorized the covert operation also known as Operation Bayonet that is believed to have continued for over 20 years. It wasn’t flawless. Ahmed Bouchiki, a Moroccan waiter, was mistaken for a terrorist. But the goal was simple: get everyone responsible no matter where they were or how long it took. Jurisdictions be damned. This was war. And the tactic was most unique. Israel could have commissioned the dispatch of those involved through more conventional methods. But that wasn’t the intent. The intended result was to show the terrorists that they couldn’t hide and there was no safe haven. It was reported before each assassination, each target’s family received flowers bearing a condolence card reading: “A reminder we do not forget or forgive.” These people were serious. They believed in teaching a lesson.

Terrorism 101. It was my introduction into the world of terrorism. And I have been fascinated by the operation ever since. The mindset. The plan and protocol. The message. It also introduced me to a subject that I still enjoy studying to this day, intelligence agencies. And Mossad is to this day without peer. The motto of the agency, also known as the Institute, roughly translates to “For by wise guidance you could wage your war.” I’m not wont to glorify war. I’m not bloodthirsty by nature. I detest the spilling of human blood when negotiating and diplomacy fail. But I’m the hardened realist. To ignore your enemy is to co-sign your elimination. I’ve been intrigued with and by the history of Israel and had visited twice and thoroughly love its people, culture and nonpareil history. And while I don’t rubber stamp everything its government does, the people of Israel have a perspective that bears repeating: Never again.

Enter Bibi. Now, let’s also clarify something. I am neither a mindless fan nor an intransigent detractor of Mr. Netanyahu. But I understand his purpose and his goal. I thoroughly comprehend the political maneuverings and how his appearance before Congress today certainly bolsters his reelection efforts. I’m also aware how his mere presence is polarizing and partitions the left-right paradigm actors into their respective places on the political stage. But what I don’t understand is how those who demand an immediate military action against ISIS, a fascinatingly mysterious, central casting group of knife-wielding, veiled bogeyman with no country, no capital, no military structure, no command and control centers, no stated goals or demands — how these people demand and expect Israel to sit on their hands and wait for their avowed enemies to change their minds. Yet, when Netanyahu dares to suggest that Iran, a country that has unequivocally stated as its goal the evaporation of the State of Israel, poses an existential threat, the same people look the other way and demand alternatives that they themselves reject when it comes to the bogeyman du jour, ISIS. The absolute and incomprehensible inequality of treatment and consideration irks me to no end. Americans cannot possibly fathom the perspective and the history of the Israelis. While I do not countenance everything Bibi says nor do I suggest acceding to every request, I do at least accept the same consideration to be given to a person who recognizes when a threat to his country and its very existence is not veiled or theoretical.

“Israel was not created in order to disappear—Israel will endure and flourish. It is the child of hope and home of the brave. It can neither be broken by adversity nor demoralized by success. It carries the shield of democracy and it honors the sword of freedom.”

(John F. Kennedy, Speech to Zionists of America Convention, August 26, 1960)

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