Israel’s Cuban Missile Crisis

Reclining comfortably here in the United States, Americans are apt to wonder why the panic in Israel.

Details of the deal hatched between the Obama Administration and the ayatollahs over Iran’s nuclear program are still in flux except for this:

Iran gets to keep its missiles and this has Israel terrified, as once we were terrified.

Political differences were set aside between ourselves when we faced the Cuban Missile Crisis and today even the hard Left in Israel joins the Netanyahu Administration in expressing fear and loathing if, as appears to be the case, Iran’s ICBM’s stay poised toward the Jewish State.

What’s missing for a Nuclear Catastrophe? A single device and, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned, “They’re getting it – a free path to the bomb.”

He should know. Because he’s the home team. It’s his neighborhood. Just as we knew it when the threat came to our neighborhood. Nobody told us to stay calm. We knew it was time to worry. Today’s editorial in The New York Times scoffs with this predictably foolish headline: “Israel’s Unworkable Demands On Iran.”

It was different back then when our lives were on the line.

We are likely to forget the way it was back in October, 1962, and how frightened we were at the prospect of our lives, our world, coming to an end.

One mistake, one miscalculation between President John F. Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and we were doomed. (This book for the full story of JFK and the 1960s.)

Aerial photographs showed that Soviet ICBM’s had been deployed in Cuba, 90 miles from Florida. Kennedy called it an unsustainable provocation and threat to our security. Kennedy imposed a blockade and threatened decisive military action unless those missiles were removed immediately.

Thus began a 13-day standoff with the world on the verge of full-scale nuclear war.

Americans became aware of the stakes when Kennedy addressed the nation Monday, October 22, 7 p.m. forever known as The Cuban Missile Crisis.

But it took a while to absorb. Only a week before another 13-day standoff had concluded. This was the World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the New York Yankees, led by Mickey Mantle. Because of rain delays the Series ran from the 4th to the 16th, with the Yankees taking the trophy – and these were the kinds of thrills we liked.

Americans, we love our games and distractions, we dote on our heroes, like Mantle.

But now it was time to pay full attention to John F. Kennedy, when in the most somber tones he told us about the nail-biter facing us upon the bitter days to come with a quarantine in force: “Neither the United States of America nor the world community of nations can tolerate deliberate deception and offensive threats on the part of any nation, large or small.

We no longer live in a world where only the actual firing of weapons represents a sufficient challenge to a nation’s security to constitute maximum peril. Nuclear weapons are so destructive and ballistic missiles are so swift, that any substantially increased possibility of their use or any sudden change in their deployment may well be regarded as a definite threat to peace.”

That was Kennedy. This is Netanyahu: “If a country [Iran] vows to annihilate us and is working every day with conventional means and unconventional means, if that country has a deal that paves its way to nuclear weapons, many nuclear weapons, it endangers our survival.”

Do we have the wisdom to appreciate the chilling similarities between then and now? Do we have the resolve?

Jack Engelhard writes a regular column for Arutz Sheva. The new thriller from the New York-based novelist, The Bathsheba Deadline, a heroic editor’s singlehanded war on terror and against media bias. Engelhard wrote the int’l bestseller Indecent Proposal that was translated into more than 22 languages and turned into a Paramount motion picture starring Robert Redford and Demi Moore. Website: www.jackengelhard.com