A crowd of students was studying in a rabbinical seminary library in Jerusalem last month when a gunman opened fire. Seven Israelis and one American were killed, nine others wounded. Before their blood had dried on the library floor, thousands of Palestinians were celebrating in the streets while Hamas leaders promised more attacks. According to CBS News, “At mosques in Gaza City . . . many residents performed prayers of thanksgiving—only performed in cases of great victory to thank God.”
This tragedy weighs heavily on my heart—as it does, no doubt, on the hearts of many Americans, and well it should. Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East—and America’s only true ally there. Only Israel allows freedom for all faiths: freedom of the press, freedom for women, and a respect for human life unknown in the Muslim world. Israel is the only country that mourns when America mourns, and that stands up for the same values we do.
So last week, while American General David Petraeus appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee to discuss the war in Iraq, I wonder how many Americans thought about what withdrawing from Iraq might mean for the Jewish state: probably not many—certainly not the media nor the politicians screaming for an immediate withdrawal.
Whether we should have invaded Iraq or not in the first place is something historians will debate for years to come. But withdrawing without establishing order and some measure of stability is another matter—one with devastating consequences. A bloody civil war in Iraq would only be the beginning.
U.S. leaders have to consider what will also happen if the United States abandons Iraq, and that is, Israel would be placed in great danger. Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has already promised to “wipe Israel off the map” as soon as he gets the chance.
Anybody who thinks that an American withdrawal from Iraq would not embolden Iran and its apocalyptically minded leader is fooling himself. And I am not alone in thinking this.
Four years ago, I was invited to a luncheon for Christian leaders to meet Ehud Olmert, now Israel’s prime minister. I asked Mr. Olmert, at the lunch, what effect the invasion of Iraq by coalition forces had had on Israel. He looked startled. “You would have to ask me?” he said. He then told me the invasion had secured Israel’s east flank—and that military might was the only thing the Islamic world would understand. The Iraq invasion, he added, was one of the great steps that had been taken to protect Israel and bring about eventual peace in the Middle East.
I am assuming he feels the same way now, four years later.