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His Honor President Roosevelt

Israel, Ma'ariv

By Yitzhak "Buji" Herzog

...there is no one to challenge this discourse or to present the alternatives in a way that wouldn’t be perceived as weakening the Israeli position or undermining its soundness, especially, towards the outside. 


Translated by Viktoria Lymar

Edited by Steven Stenzler


12 March 2012



Netanyahu’s insinuation about the American president’s oversight in 1944 lacked accuracy and sensitivity. Not everything should be mobilized for the sake of the war on the nuke.


“Will we have a war before summer?”

Tammy, a high school student from Holon, asked me hesitantly, when I was about to finish my lecture about the Knesset1. “Excellent question”, I replied to Tammy. “I’m glad that you’re bringing it up and breaking the silence on the subject. Our public lives in repression and really does not want to think about another war.” 

For years Israel has been prepping for confrontation with Iran. Home Front Command drills, including the national emergency exercise, have become a routine. The threats of the Iranian leaders have become a daily occurrence. Election speeches of the politicians present Iran as a reason to everything: inflated security budget; neutralization of the social protest; a new national agenda; and national pride. Lately, in the wake of incessant visits of the American VIPs to Israel and the flow of information streaming mostly from the United States - the Israeli discourse changed, and war with Iran has turned into a real and actual topic. 

Until recently, we witnessed primarily the talk of “pros”; “privy to the secret” from among the world leaders. The Israeli public was too nonplussed to participate in the chatter. This is mainly due to the comprehension of the average citizen that he doesn’t have enough tools and information to tip the scales on the issue, and also is not enough aware of capabilities, of the feasibility, of Israel’s chances for success, of Iran’s possible response and of the outcome of the whole campaign which may last a long time. In the past weeks, and especially after Netanyahu’s visit to Washington, it seems that the penny dropped and the probability of war is becoming a concrete reality which the public internalizes.

However, the sources of information of the public are still filtered, censored, distorted and one-dimensional. The basic trust in the IDF2, its pilots, its soldiers and its commanders exists; nevertheless, the lessons of the recent past beg questions - unanswered ones. Only very few have the true and the full picture. Visits of the American VIPs designed to reassure the public, have only raised the level of tension and anxiety, and Netanyahu’s weekend interviews are putting the warlike option on the table at its full strength.

On the other hand, there is no one to challenge this discourse or to present the alternative in a way that wouldn’t be perceived as weakening the Israeli position or undermining its soundness, - especially, toward the outside. There is no one who can really ask Netanyahu and Barak3 tough questions in public, even if it’s clear to everybody that there is a debate of historic proportions here. 

Not for nothing did Netanyahu choose the Holocaust narrative to enhance Israel’s standing. The criminal words of hatred and incitement from Tehran are certainly driving this narrative. The feeling of a Churchillian decision at the door only empowers and strengthens it publicly and politically. In such an atmosphere, it’s difficult and even impossible to conduct a practical discussion or examine historical truths. The narrative is so strong and penetrating so deep - to the point of allowing sometimes even twisting history to serve its purpose. 

Here’s an example: “My friends, 2012 is not 1944," Netanyahu issued in front of the raging AIPAC conference and went on: “The American government today is different. You heard that in President Obama’s speech yesterday.”4 That was no less than a reproof and criticism toward someone, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, one of the greatest presidents the United States of America knew, who in 1944 had led his nation to a war campaign hardest of all. Roosevelt led the entire world to liberation of Europe from the bitter Nazi enemy in a bloody war against Germany and its allies, particularly, the Japanese empire. He showed determination, courage and daring.

This prominent American president who was suffering from severe polio condition in his youth, imparted a tremendous inspiration to his people. He pulled his country out of a dire economic crisis of the thirties, and sent millions of young Americans to their deaths in order to save the world in World War II. He was the only president in the United States’ history to get elected to four terms. From a leader like Netanyahu, preparing his people to a war, we would expect a little more accuracy and sensitivity.

The author is former minister, chairman of Avoda [Labor] faction in the Knesset and a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee


Original Hebrew article:



1. Israeli parliament

2. Israel Defense Forces, lit. "Defensive Army for Israel"

3. Ehud Barak – Israeli Defense Minister