19 June 2008

Meeting with Sallai Meridor

Yesterday I was in Washington, DC for a meeting of the board of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, we had an interesting guest. Sallai Meridor, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States, had heard that we were meeting nearby and asked if he could speak to us. Needless to say, the CCAR President, Rabbi Peter Knobel, was happy to oblige.

After thanking us for the important work that we as Reform Rabbis do and noting the increased importance of the State of Israel in the Reform Movement, Ambassador Meridor's message was simple: Israel's major external threat at this moment in time is Iran, Iran, Iran.

He made the following points:

  • If Iran succeeds in getting a nuclear bomb, they might use it.
  • If Iran succeeds in getting a nuclear bomb, everyone else in the region will want one.
  • If others in the region start to get them, the time lag until a nuclear bomb is in the hands of a terrorist is minimal.
He then said that:
  1. Iran needs to know that the United States is monolithic on preventing Iran's nuclear proliferation.
  2. The rest of the world needs to get on the bandwagon.
  3. Stronger sanctions are needed now. (He mentioned specifically that Iran has little in the way of refineries and actually imports much of its gasoline products. This is a vulnerable point.)
  4. Iran needs to know that "all options are on the table".
Finally, he spoke about Hezbollah and Hamas, but in the context of how they gave Iran two military arms encircling Israel - the first with a large missile battery capable of reaching three-quarters of Israel, and the second with a growing missile battery capable of covering much of the rest.

Of the truce scheduled to begin today with Hamas in Gaza, he said that the choice was escalation and re-occupation or giving Egypt's diplomacy a chance. Of the negotiations with Syria, he said that the current generation - before it puts its grandchildren in the line of fire - needs to try negotiation, if only to separate the Syrian/Iranian axis. Of potential direct negotiations with Lebanon, he said the time had come.


At the end of his talk, Ambassador Meridor also offered options for things that I as a Rabbi can give to my congregants to take action - in addition to the usual informing our governmental representatives and holding them to account:

He told a story of how he looked into his small pension funds and asked his financial advisor if he had any funds in companies that did business in Iran. At first, his advisor said that there were, but there was little he could do with the larger fund. Ambassador Meridor, as a private investor, asked that his funds be taken out of those relevant companies. In response, the fund did some investigation and removed a larger than $1M investment in a Swedish company doing business in Iran and replaced that investment in another company in a similar business, but not in Iran.

Ambassador Meridor challenged us to take a look at our investments, speak to our brokers or investment advisors, and do what we can - not necessarily to start a grassroots campaign - but to begin to say, we don't want to put our money into a country that exports terror; that denies the Holocaust, or that threatens (and has the power) to wipe Israel off the map.


I am going to take a look at my family's investments (small though they may be) and do a moral cheshbon (check-up). It is time to make sure I am not investing in companies that profit the Iranian government. In exchange, I believe it is time to move my money toward investments that promote better use of our finite environmental resources.

If I learn anything of use to you, I will let you know.

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