"Mr. President, you live in a big country: wide and long with friendly neighbors and oceans. The distance of your journey from Honolulu to Washington, DC is 4,835 miles – 25% farther than the distance from Tel Aviv to Tehran. Even from Los Angeles to Washington is 2,308 miles. From our southern tip in Eilat to Metullah in the north is 298 miles – just about Washington, DC to New York. Jerusalem to Tel Aviv is 37 miles – although it feels longer in traffic. From Gaza City to Sderot – 3 miles.
"The United States is big and Israel is small. You go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. We do not "go" to war any more; war comes to us -- in the form of rockets and missiles. Abut ½ of 1% of Americans serve in the American armed forces. More than 75% of Israeli high school graduates serve before college and most of them then serve for years in the reserve forces. World War II killed 0.307% of all Americans based on 1940 population numbers. In 1933, approximately 9.5 million Jews lived in Europe; 1.7% of the total European population, but more than 60% of the world's Jews. So the Holocaust killed almost 2/3 of the Jews living in Europe, and about 39% of world Jewry.
"There are a lot of you and not so many of us. America is a young country. Your founding documents are no more than 300 years old and what you've built – with the exception of the Twin Towers – you've kept as long as you've wanted it. You have Harvard, Gadsby's Tavern, Elfreth's Alley, towns, cities and farms. Our founding document is more than 3,000 years old and we'd already lost our First and Second Temples while Jesus was still a living memory. Within today's living memory, we lost schools, synagogues, libraries, homes, businesses and the graves of our fathers in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.
"You have; we had, we lost, we built, we lost and we rebuilt in our ancient homeland. You know that, so why am I telling you this?
"Because it informs everything you do and everything we do. The lesson we draw from your history is that in the 1930s it was Czechoslovakia, not the United States that disappeared. After the American withdrawal from Vietnam, it was Cambodians, not Americans who died. President Clinton said the absence of U.S. intervention in Rwanda was a mistake – but it was Rwandans, not Americans who died.
"We appreciated hearing you say that you share our understanding of Iran as a threat and hearing you say that a nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable to you. But the lesson of our history is that small people in small spaces do not have the luxury of being wrong the first time and regrouping to get it right. At the moment of peril, we will have one shot at protecting ourselves, and only one."
Shoshana Bryen is Senior Director for The Jewish Policy Center. She was previously Senior Director for Security Policy at JINSA and author of JINSA Reports from 1995-2011.