The debate over health care, exciting (and dispiriting) as it was (and is), diverted attention from Iranian nuclear ambitions. But it's still with us. Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor, draws a stunning analogy between Iran now and Germany after World War I. He recalls in The Wall Street Journal remarks Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's master of propaganda, made to a group of German journalists in 1940: If Goebbels had been the French premier after Hitler came to power, he would have said, "The new Reich chancellor is the one who wrote 'Mein Kampf,' which says this and that. This man cannot be tolerated in our vicinity. Either he disappears or we march."
Goebbels continued: "They didn't do it. They left us alone and let us slip through the risky zone, and we were able to sail around all dangerous reefs." Comparisons of contemporary men and events to Nazi Germany are usually glib and rarely on the mark, but this one strikes into the heart of our own complacency.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who came to town this week to speak to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), reminded Washington that the ties between the United States and Israel are not mere cliches, but reflect sharing of the hatred of the Islamists who dream of putting the entire world under Sharia law.
"Militant Islam does not hate the West because of Israel," Netanyahu said. "It hates Israel because of the West, because it sees Israel as an outpost of freedom that prevents them from overrunning the Middle East. When Israel stands against its enemies, it stands against America's enemies."
In contrast, Hillary's speech to AIPAC rang with the music of a stick banged against a tin pan. She repeated the cliches and even took note of the repeated warnings, such as they are, of transforming "crippling" sanctions into "sanctions that will bite" -- instead of sending a little dog to nip at Iranian heels, the West will send a dog big enough to reach an occasional ankle. Then the secretary of state put on her schoolmarm mantle to scold Israel once more for building apartments for Jews in East Jerusalem.
But Jerusalem, as the Israeli prime minister reminded Washington, is not a "settlement," but a nation's capital. Nearly a quarter of a million Israelis, almost half of the city's population, live in neighborhoods just beyond the 1949 armistice lines. "All these neighborhoods are within a five-minute drive from the Knesset. They are an integral and inextricable part of modern Jerusalem. Everyone knows that these neighborhoods will be part of Israel in any peace settlement. Building in them in no way precludes the possibility of a two-state solution."
The Jewish Passover season begins next week, celebrating the end of Jewish slavery in Egypt with remembrances of wandering through the desert to the promised land. It's a holiday where the herbs are both bitter and sweet, for looking back and facing the future. That's better than cynicism, however much the politicians invite it.