Reflections on Divine Providence for the Tenth Anniversary of Israel’s Founding

In a sermon given on the eve of Yom Ha-Atsma’ut in 1958, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik considered the previous decade of Israel’s existence from a theological perspective, and responded—for the most part indirectly—to the arguments put forward by religious opponents of Zionism. Drawing on the story of the biblical Abraham’s troubled years in the land of Canaan, Soloveitchik asserted that the young country’s troubles should be proof that its establishment was the fulfilment of God’s will. He responded to the naysayers by confessing that he “cannot understand . . . how Jews can have the temerity to choose someplace in exile to protest the Land of Israel.” (Video, Yiddish with English subtitles, 14 minutes.)

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More about: Anti-Zionism, Israeli Independence Day, Judaism


Israel Can’t Stake Its Fate on “Ironclad” Promises from Allies

Israeli tanks reportedly reached the center of the Gazan city of Rafah yesterday, suggesting that the campaign there is progressing swiftly. And despite repeatedly warning Jerusalem not to undertake an operation in Rafah, Washington has not indicated any displeasure, nor is it following through on its threat to withhold arms. Even after an IDF airstrike led to the deaths of Gazan civilians on Sunday night, the White House refrained from outright condemnation.

What caused this apparent American change of heart is unclear. But the temporary suspension of arms shipments, the threat of a complete embargo if Israel continued the war, and comments like the president’s assertion in February that the Israeli military response has been “over the top” all call into question the reliability of Joe Biden’s earlier promises of an “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security. Douglas Feith and Ze’ev Jabotinsky write:

There’s a lesson here: the promises of foreign officials are never entirely trustworthy. Moreover, those officials cannot always be counted on to protect even their own country’s interests, let alone those of others.

Israelis, like Americans, often have excessive faith in the trustworthiness of promises from abroad. This applies to arms-control and peacekeeping arrangements, diplomatic accords, mutual-defense agreements, and membership in multilateral organizations. There can be value in such things—and countries do have interests in their reputations for reliability—but one should be realistic. Commitments from foreign powers are never “ironclad.”

Israel should, of course, maintain and cultivate connections with the United States and other powers. But Zionism is, in essence, about the Jewish people taking responsibility for their own fate.

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More about: Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship