Wake-Up Call

(Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

The leading news stories come from different countries with very different issues. But they all have a single common denominator.
If the increasingly dire warnings from U.S. intelligence agencies are accurate regarding a Russian invasion of Ukraine, it isn’t a matter of if, but when. As of this writing, Secretary of State Antony Blinken says that his upcoming meeting with Russian counterpart Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov — now scheduled for Thursday — will only take place if the invasion hasn’t begun by then. President Joe Biden has agreed “in principle” to a meeting with President Vladimir Putin following that engagement, but again, only if Moscow holds back from attacking.

A Russian takeover of even a part of Ukraine is projected to cost tens of thousands of lives and would force countless civilians to flee their homes, including members of several Jewish communities. It would also have severe geopolitical security ramifications for the rest of Europe, and especially for the neighboring NATO members.
The domino effect of the invasion will also almost certainly be felt in the United States. On a purely pragmatic level, it may further aggravate an already soaring rate of inflation, and Moscow is widely expected to respond to tough American sanctions with equally harsh cyberattacks.

At the same time, in a development that being overshadowed by the Ukrainian crisis, negotiators in Vienna are indicating that they may be only days away from reaching a deal that would see America and Iran return to a version of the 2015 nuclear agreement. While the particulars of the deal are still under wraps, there is ample reason to be worried about what might imminently emerge. The Biden administration has made no secret of its determination to rejoin the agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), something that has emboldened Iranian demands.

There are no ideal options on the table. As these words are being written, it is still possible that Iran will walk away at this late stage. Two hundred fifty Iranian lawmakers released a statement asking for guarantees from the U.S. and the three other European counties that they won’t withdraw from the deal after it is renegotiated. That call came after more than 160 Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives wrote a letter to President Biden declaring any agreement he reaches with Iran without formal Congressional approval “will be temporary and non-binding,” and will meet the same fate as the 2015 agreement. In other words, the next Republican administration will simply nullify it. Yet, while an Iranian rejection would calm the opponents of the JCPOA, the rejection on its own will do nothing to solve the grave threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran.

These developments come at a time when an increasingly hostile Israeli government continues to hack at the fragile status quo, putting such core values as conversion, kashrus, marriage, and the drafting of yeshivah bachurim in the crosshairs — and placing the country on a collision course with utter disaster, chas v’shalom.

The common denominator of all these stories is that they echo piercing words, first spoken some 2,600 years ago to Yonah Hanavi by the captain of a ship that was about to capsize in a devastating storm. The words continue to be a rallying call to Klal Yisrael: “How can you sleep so soundly? Arise! Call to your G-d!”

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