FAQ: Amalek, Goldberg, Netanyahu and Iran

Gershom Gorenberg

When Bibi Netanyahu thinks about Iran with nukes, does he “think Amalek”? And if so what does that mean? You ask, we provide answers.

Does Bibi think Iran is Amalek? Jeffrey Goldberg set up this discussion last week in a New York Times op-ed.  The key sentence is:

I recently asked one of his advisers to gauge for me the depth of Mr. Netanyahu’s anxiety about Iran. His answer: “Think Amalek.”

Please note: That’s not a quote from Bibi, it’s a quote from the adviser taking measure of Bibi. It could be that the prime minister would use the word “Amalek,” the mythical enemy of the Jewish people. But I doubt it. It’s a term from a religious lexicon, more commonly used among religious Jews or those shaped by a religious education. Netanyahu sometimes tries religious metaphors before religious audiences, but without a lot of skill or conviction. It’s more likely that one of Netanyahu’s advisers used his own language for the boss’s state of mind.

Bibi tends to take his metaphors from history. Never mind his ability to warp history, that’s what the historian’s son likes to study and cite. As in this well-known example, as reported in Ha’aretz after Netanyahu spoke in Los Angeles in November 2006:

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