Op-Ed: The Ides of March are Soon Upon Us
The Ides of March was the name for a date on the Roman calendar corresponding with our date of March 15. It was a fateful date, the chosen day for the assassination of Julius Caesar. Before Caesar went to the theater of Pompey to attend the Senate meeting, he had been given advice not to go, but he didn't listen. Because of the assassination and the soothsayer's exchange with Julius Caesar about the dangers he faced in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar tragedy, the Ides of March now signifies a day of foreboding.
Obama's impending visit to Israel during the month of March is not a coincidence, but was chosen to bear an implicit meaning for Prime Minister Netanyahu and all of Israel. As Obama's March visit approaches, Secretary of State Kerry and others will be - figuratively - repeating; "Beware the Ides of March". What they will really be saying is, either play ball and give Obama his one success in the Middle East, or else, you and Israel will be blamed for all that has gone wrong in the Middle East, and any expectations that Israel can depend on America to prevent Iran from reaching nuclear capability will be history.
Unfortunately, Obama's advisors are still deeply involved in promoting thinking that is obsolete and detached from the changes that have occurred in the Middle East and in Israel during Obama's watch. The reason is most likely that Obama chooses to continue to listen to the same American Jewish Democratic supporters who promote wishful thinking and "Tikkun Olam" philosophies rather than well thought-out analyses reflecting the changes occurring in our region.
Obama's Presidency has resulted in the Middle East becoming one giant sea of Islamic nations based on the Sharia, Islamic law that justifies a one-dimensional interpretation of civilization in favor of Islam. These newly formed Islamic states cropping up one by one on Israel's borders have taken the region back to the future. Accepting Israel's right to existence as the home of the Jewish nation, allowing basic human rights for their own citizens, or even sustaining democracy after being democratically elected are all no longer applicable to the Islamic Middle East after four years of the Obama Presidency.
Concerning the Palestinian Arabs, it is probable that the same blind hindsight will continue to prevail. The idea that concealing the truth about the Palestinian Arabs, and their inability to make peace with Israel will resuscitate the tenuous hope for peace will remain a hallmark of Obama's expected behavior during his visit. This kind of thinking is similar to the mistakes made by both the previous Democratic Administrations and some Israeli leaders who spent the 1990s ignoring Palestinian Arab violations of the peace accords because they thought holding them accountable would derail negotiations. This strategic error only encouraged the Palestinian Arabs to "anti up the stake" and led to the terror of the second intifada, unleashing years of suicide bombers and resulting in thousands of Israeli's killed and wounded.
Within Israel, two major intertwined developments will change forever the political and economic landscape of Israel. Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid party, has emerged as the leader of the second largest party and will lead to one of two possibilities – Shas, the Sephardic ultra-Orthodox party, will join the coalition and have no power, or it will be kept outside the coalition and have no power. Either way, Shas’s demotion from political kingmaker to political deadweight is a transformative development.
One of the major sources of social friction that has weakened Israeli society over the past few decades is a perception shared by most Israelis that the ultra-Orthodox community, who do not participate in either the common burden of national defense or in the economic life of the country - but due to Israel’s proportional electoral system have managed to maintain control over the state religious institutions and so dictate the relationship between religion and society in Israel since the emergence of Shas in the late 1970's - will be coming to an end.
This expected change will make Judaism part of the lifeblood of the country in a way that is relevant to the lives of the vast majority of Israelis and pave the way for Israel’s further emergence as the spiritual center of world Jewry. The ripple effects of such a reform would extend to nearly every corner of Israel, and indeed, to nearly every corner of the Jewish world.
The third and final transformative change that has been equally ignored by the Obama administration has to do with Israel's emerging energy independence. ISRAEL has over the past two years conducted successful test pumping of natural gas from Israel's offshore Leviathan natural gas field. According to most experts, the size of Israel's newly discovered gas reserves are comparable to or are greater than oil reserves of Saudi Arabia. In the next four years, Israel will become a major natural gas exporter and will make great strides in developing her recently discovered shale oil deposits.
Under the political and economic leadership of Netanyahu who is an ideologically committed champion of free market economics, Israel’s emergence as an energy exporter will have a transformational impact on Israel’s economic independence and long-term viability, and her ability to sustain an effective deterrence against Iran and other potential enemies.
In Israel, March symbolizes the end of winter and the abundance of rain that has blessed all of Israel. Let's not forget that an adequate "natural" water supply is one of G-d's ways to show us His appreciation for what we are doing on His Land, as it says in the book of D'varim 11:13-21 (Deuteronomy) "And it will come to pass that if you continually hearken to my commandments that I command you today, to love Hashem, your G-d, and to serve Him, with all your heart and with all your soul - then I will provide rain for your land in its proper time, the early and late rains, that you may gather in your grain, your wine and your oil. I will provide grass in your field for your cattle and you will eat and be satisfied..."
As the Ides of March approach, and President Obama visits Israel, he would be wise to be reminded of Who really pulls the strings.