Excerpt from Rav Aviner's commentary to the Book of Yonah - see above how to purchase it

Chapter 5 - The Honor of Israel

Our Sages summarize this idea in one brief statement: "Eliyahu demanded the honor of the father…Yonah demanded the honor of the son" (Mechilta De-Rabbi Yishmael, Bo, parashah #1). This is to say that the prophet Eliyahu demanded the honor of Hashem, and with great forcefulness. As he said to the Jewish People on Mt. Carmel: "How long will you limp between two opinions? If Hashem is G-d, follow him and if Baal [is G-d], then follow him!" (Melachim 1 18:21). He later killed all of the prophets of Baal and Asherah. Yonah, on the other hand, demanded the honor of the son, i.e. the Nation of Israel. For her sake, he was willing to do anything, even to distance himself from the Master of the Universe. As we have mentioned, according to our Sages, there is a connection between Yonah and Eliyahu: Yonah's mother was the widow from Tzarfat, and it was he who was revived by the prophet Eliyahu. He later demonstrated the same zealousness as the prophet Eliyahu, for the honor of Israel rather than for the honor of Hashem. He did not want to trample on the honor of Israel. Our Sages say: "Yonah went to kill himself in the sea. And you also find the forefathers [cf. Moshe Rabbenu, according to the Vilna Gaon], and the prophets sacrifice themselves for Israel" (Mechilta De-Rebbe Yishmael, Bo). We must remember that earlier Yonah had prophesied during the period of King Yerovam ben Yoash regarding the expansion of the border's of Israel (Melachim 2 14:25). Even though his prophecy was proven correct, it was to no avail: Israel did not repent (Malbim). And now the Master of the Universe was commanding him to do the exact opposite: to help Assyria repent so that it would be a rod of Hashem's anger against Israel (Yeshayahu 10:5). The Malbim explains: "Hashem wanted to show that the Assyrians had greater merit than Israel, since they listened to a prophet and repented while Israel did not repent." If Yonah had not already prophesied to Israel, the shame would not have been so great. But under the circumstances, if Yonah now prophesied to the non-Jews and they repented (which was likely, since they were close to repentance), he would help cause major damage to Israel's honor. Yonah did not want to have any part of this even and was willing to sacrifice himself instead. In the end, the Master of the Universe forced him to accept the prophecy, by having him swallowed by the fish.

Question: Where did Yonah get the power to demand the honor of Israel?
Answer: Yonah's power exists from the power of the Nation of Israel. The Jerusalem Talmud (Sukkah 5:1) relates that when Yonah entered the "Simchat Beit Ha-Sho'eivah" (the rejoicing at the water libation ceremony during Sukkot which takes place in the Temple) the Divine Spirit rested on him. This was the communal Divine Spirit, i.e. belonging to the entirety of Israel, which appears only three times a year, when all of Israel comes to see and be seen in the Temple.

Question: If Yonah was so righteous, why was he punished by Hashem?
Answer: Hashem certainly knew that Yonah was righteous, but He wanted Yonah to prophesy and to understand fully the concept of repentance (which we will discuss later). Hashem therefore forced him to prophesy and Yonah learned this lesson the hard way.

Question: How do we know that the prophet's refusal stemmed from his opposition to the repentance of the people of Nineveh?
Answer: We learn this from two sources: 1. The verse at the end of the book (4:2) in which Yonah himself testifies that the reason for his flight was that Hashem is gracious and merciful. 2. The idea we learn from the Oral Torah (via Rashi) that the non-Jews are close to repentance.