And, too, there were the Soviets to consider. The Lyndon Johnson administration was then thoroughly bogged down in a war in Vietnam. They worried that an Israeli strike against threatening Arab regimes might escalate into World War III, with the USSR intervening to support its Arab clients in the region. There was no support from LBJ's White House for an Israeli armed response to the murderous threats coming from Arab capital. Then, as now, the word from the politically worried administration in Washington to the Israelis was: cool it.
Easy for you to say, Mr. Johnson. Easy for you, too, Mr. Obama.
The Israelis have patiently endured threat after threat of being wiped out by eliminationist neighbors. They have warned the UN, the world community, and especially the Obama administration that there is a limit to their endurance.
The Obama administration's response has been to trumpet the success of its latest round of economic sanctions against the Tehran regime. Yes, sanctions might indeed "bite," they may have a "crippling" effect on the Iranian economy. But all those sanctions do is make the wretched people of Iran more wretched. And, in a perverse way, serve to prop up the mullahs regime. They can blame all their people's misery on the U.S. sanctions and say it's all the fault of the Great Satan.
Remember those plastic keys. The kind of men who would send children to their deaths are not the kind of people who care about the suffering they cause. Sanctions may bite, but they don't bite the mullahs.
Israel often appears in the world press as a naysayer. When the doves of the UN are cooing, when there are handshakes on the South Lawn of the White House, when the Spirit of Camp David Accords wafts gently in the breeze, hard-headed Israeli analysts question whether these moves have really defanged terrorists or just given them some dental hygiene.
Prime Minister Menachem Begin was once confronted in Washington by a public relations executive who appealed to him to try to put the Israeli case in more positive terms. "You always seem to be saying NO," the friendly critic charged, "please try to put the case for Israel in more positive terms. It means a lot in public relations, I can assure you."
The Prime Minister responded with a courtly bow. He thanked the executive for his support for the Jewish state. He said he and his colleagues in the Knesset--the elected Knesset, he emphasized--would consider ways to be more positive.
"But, Mr. Public Relations executive, I hope you will grant me this: In our part of the world, there are certain precedents for Thou Shalt Not."
There are indeed certain precedents for Thou Shalt Not. Including Thou Shalt Not Murder. And an Iranian cleric who daily incites his captive people to slaughter the Israelis has violated that ancient Thou Shalt Not.
That is why the Israelis now have their Casus Belli, their just cause for war. If they strike Iran's still-spinning centrifuges and stop their headlong quest for atomic weapons, they will be well justified.
Americans should thank, not criticize, Israel if Israelis defend themselves. They'll be defending us, too. They may be fighting by themselves alone, but they do not fight for themselves alone.