Terror today poses a strategic threat to the State of Israel. And while terror tries to destroy us physically throughout the world, there are lavishly global efforts to deny us the right to defend ourselves against that terror,” stated Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States.
His remarks, which starkly outlined the challenges facing Israel, were in sharp contrast to the celebratory setting in which they were made: the gala dinner recognizing the Rabbinical College of America’s 40 years of growth in Morristown.
Close to 700 people attended the event held Nov. 14 at the Robert Treat Hotel in Newark. Honorary degrees were bestowed upon Oren and attorneys Arnold H. Chait, Laurence Reich, and Jonathan L. Goldstein, a former U.S. attorney, for their leadership in the community and the legal profession.
The program also included a tribute to victims of the Holocaust and to Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, the young Lubavitch couple murdered in the 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai.
In his remarks, RCA dean Rabbi Moshe Herson called the celebration “a milestone” in the life of the institution, which began with 10 students in a one-family house in Newark in 1956. Today some 300 students are enrolled, and graduates go on to serve as shlihim, or emissaries, at Chabad centers throughout the world.
“Thank God we have come a long way, but there is [still] so much to be done,” he said. “This is just the beginning. We are very grateful to God and the community for their support.”
Oren spoke following a week of intensive meetings between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Vice President Joseph Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
The ambassador, who grew up in West Orange and studied at a precursor to the RCA, said he hoped a way back to the negotiating table could be found.
Prolonged applause met his statement setting forth assurances regarding the peace process: “[W]e will negotiate on the basis of Palestinian demilitarization, utter security for the Jewish state, mutual and reciprocal recognition between these two states,” and steps “that…will bring about an end of claims and an end of conflict, true and legitimate permanent peace, and on the basis of Jerusalem as the undivided eternal capital of the State of Israel.”
Oren said the challenges facing Israel are “as daunting and insurmountable” as any in the country’s past.
They include the “continuous and ominous threat of terror” by Hizbullah and Hamas. Hizbullah in Lebanon, he said, has increased the number of rockets in its arsenal from 12,000 to 50,000 in just four years. Hamas in Gaza has 10,000 rockets, one of which was recently tested and proven accurate within four yards.
Boycotts, divestment, and sanctions, also known as BDS, are equally dangerous and take many forms, he said, including efforts to deny him the ability to speak on American campuses or attempts in various UN forums to place sanctions on Israel.
“We know from our history that every attempt to destroy us as a people has been presaged by an attempt to dehumanize us as a people. And that’s what BDS does, and if BDS succeeds it will leave us vulnerable to perhaps the most ominous threat of all, and that is the threat of Iranian nuclearization,” he said.
If Iran goes nuclear, said Oren, it will pass this military capability on to Hizbullah and Hamas, whose rockets will be able to attack every city in Israel.
“And friends,” he warned, “within the next 10 years they will be able to reach this city, Newark, New Jersey, too.”
He also predicted that a nuclear Iran will trigger an arms race in the Middle East. “Israel will find itself living in a profoundly unstable nuclear neighborhood. Can you imagine what that will be like?” he asked.
Oren said Israel has joined with the American government and the Obama administration to develop what he termed “the world’s most advanced anti-missile defense system” that will provide Israeli citizens “in the home front with the greatest possible missile umbrella that anybody has ever known.” He noted that the same technology will be available to American servicewomen and men fighting throughout the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Israel has also joined with the American government and likeminded nations to impose sanctions on Iran. “I can only assure you that the policy of the government of Israel, as it is the policy of the United States government, is that all options will remain on the table. We will not allow Iran to pose an existential threat to the State of Israel,” said Oren to thunderous applause.