Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu gave the speech of his life today. His speech was not merely good, it was, as one commentator here put it, perfect.
His pacing and his delivery were masterful; he managed to take the high road and deliver a powerful message at the same time.
But let me back up just a moment: before he spoke a word, he entered the chamber to a packed house and received a standing ovation that was overwhelming. It brought me and many others to tears, I will say. Wow!
So much for the talk of boycotting the speech. Every seat was taken, and during that opening ovation, which went on and on, members of Congress cheered him, and reached out to shake his hand. As I said (lacking a better term): Wow!
I will include below both a full text of his talk and a full video. (If you haven’t seen the speech, I encourage you to watch – even though the video begins after that first standing ovation).
And so here I will simply touch upon his major points.
First, as to that high road. He began by assuring everyone that he had no partisan intentions in coming to speak and said he understood that both Democrats and Republicans stand with Israel (which brought great applause). He thanked President Obama for all of the ways in which he has helped Israel: and he enumerated several ways. Very gracious and non-confrontational.
Then too he refrained from revealing any secrets. This was one of the major “concerns” voiced by Obama prior to the speech: we fear he will ruin negotiations by speaking of matters that should not be public. Actually, what Bibi said was that the information he was sharing is available to anyone who Googles the Internet. Took the wind right out of Obama’s sail, there.
Bibi said he had a profound obligation to speak about Israel’s future, and Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons. He referred to the Book of Esther, and the upcoming holiday of Purim – which refers to an ancient threat to the Jewish people by Haman, in Persia. Today, he said, another potentate in Persia (Iran is ancient Persia) is threatening to destroy the Jewish people.
Iran, however, is not just a threat to Israel, but to the entire world, which point is of considerable significance. He then proceeded to describe the nature of the regime in Iran, the zealots who seek to fulfill an ideological mission of jihad, exporting revolution around the world. In the Middle East, states are collapsing and Iran is rushing in. In addition, Iran is promoting terrorism worldwide. We must stop this march of conquest, subjugation and terror.
These are exceedingly important points: It’s not “just” about Iran nuclear, Iran is a problem and source of unrest in the world now. What is more, in spite of the sweet words of Iranian leaders two years ago, there has been no moderation of Iran –it is as radical as ever.
Then Bibi delivered a warning: Do not make the mistake of imagining that in the battle between Iran and ISIS, Iran can become a friend. (Obama has promoted this ludicrous scenario.) Iran and ISIS are simply competing for the crown of the militant Islamic empire.
The greatest danger to the world is Iran with nuclear weapons. And, said Bibi, it could happen if the deal currently on the table is signed.
There are two major concessions that are of greatest concern:
1) Iran will be permitted to retain a vast nuclear infrastructure, which will allow a short breakout time. Not a single facility would be demolished, and thousands of centrifuges would keep spinning. The breakout time might be a year, but might be much less.
2) Apparently restrictions are to expire in about ten years. The Iranians have declared intention to have 190,000 centrifuges – which would permit a whole arsenal to be put together in a matter of weeks.
The deal, as structured, paves the way for Iran to get the bomb.
As to inspections, the major problem is that inspectors inspect, but do not stop anything from happening. In 2005, 2006, and 2010, Iran defied inspectors, sending them packing.
Iran can also play “hide and cheat.” Just yesterday, the IAEA said Iran won’t come clean. They could get to a bomb by violating the deal.
The question of development of ballistic missiles is not even on the table; in time they will reach the US.
Bibi does not believe Iran will change, but will actually become more aggressive with a deal. They will be aggressive abroad and have prosperity at home. A nuclear tinderbox will be created, as Iran’s neighbors rush to get the bomb too.
But there is another way to handle the situation:
Restrictions on Iran must be kept in place as long as it continues its aggression in the region, fosters terrorism around the world, and threatens to annihilate Israel.
It is argued that the clock cannot be rolled back, as Iran has the know-how. But know-how without infrastructure goes nowhere. Roll back Iran’s infrastructure.
And keep the pressure on. (That is, sanctions.) If Iran threatens to walk, call their bluff.
This is a very bad deal. No deal is better.
It is not true that the only alternative to this deal is war, the alternative is a better deal.
This is a fateful crossroad in history: Do not sacrifice the future for the present.
NEVER AGAIN. This, said Bibi, is the first time in 100 generations that the Jewish people are not powerless. We can defend ourselves. Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand. (The implication here is clear, and welcome on several levels.)
However, he knows that America stands with Israel. (This met with great applause.)
The story of Israel, he said, is the story of the human spirit that refuses to succumb to the world’s horrors.
Bibi ended by citing Moses: “Be strong and resolute, neither fear nor dread them…” This is Deuteronomy (D’varim) 31:6. The completion of that phrase is, “for the Lord your God goes with you” – unspoken in Congress today, but, I am certain, clearly understood by our prime minister.
This is the third time that Prime Minster Netanyahu has spoken before the Congress of the United States. The only head of state to be similarly honored was Winston Churchill. During the speech, there were some 24 standing ovations.
Here you can find both video highlights of the speech, and, if you scroll down a bit more, the entire speech:
And here you have the complete transcript:
There has been enormous critical praise for this speech, beginning from the moment it was over. Except on the left, of course. Obama is perhaps the biggest clown with his comments on the speech which he only read in transcript form, he said, and which he referred to as “theater.” (“theater”? and he wasn’t watching?) There was “nothing new,” he said, “no viable alternative” was offered.”
What nonsense. Bibi was quite clear: do not allow the infrastructure for enriching uranium to stand, and keep the sanctions on in order to apply maximum pressure as long as Iran continues to display hegemonic intentions, export terrorism, and threaten Israel. (Because the price of oil is down, sanctions will do even more damage, and bring Iran to its knees if applied stringently.) Do not ally with Iran, reducing sanctions in the mistaken belief that a US-Iranian partnership against ISIS is possible.
I am certain that the Senators and Congresspersons present understood this quite well. It now remains to be seen how much they will take this to heart. There is betting that they will.
Some Democrats are saying that this speech was just for political purposes, which is also nonsense. Iran is a topic that has been of deep concern to Binyamin Netanyahu for many years.
Of course, there are mindless comments coming from the left here in Israel as well. Take Zahava Gal-On, head of Meretz, for example. She called the speech “chutzpah” because Bibi told the US how to handle the negotiations with Iran. Oh, better he should have kept quiet and just watched Iran move towards the bomb? This is called grasping at straws in an election season.
In the end, it is still possible that negotiations will fall apart on their own. Just today, Iran declared that the US demand for a ten-year freeze on certain nuclear activities was “unacceptable.” They smell weakness, and push back against all restrictions. Precisely how many backward steps will Obama take, especially now, with Congress watching ever so carefully?
I would like to call your attention to a piece by Khaled abu Toameh – “Arab Joint Force”: A Vote of No Confidence in the West.”
Egyptian President al-Sisi has proposed a joint Arab force to confront Iran and radical Islam, and has gone to Saudi Arabia to discuss it. This indicates a lack of faith in the West, and abu Toameh suggests that it may be the start of a move towards the Arab states taking the lead in fighting the radicals.
When Bibi spoke today about Iranian aggression in the area, it was against these states that he was referring. There is reason to believe these states would likely provide backup for us, should it be necessary.
Tomorrow night is Purim (Thursday night in Jerusalem, which was a walled city and celebrates Shushan Purim). It is a joyous time, and I, for one, am eager for the celebrations. Time with grandchildren, a family dinner (seuda) and more. I even have my costume.
There will not be another posting, I suspect, until after Shabbat. I will pick up then on responses from Congress and other pertinent issues.
Now I wish all who are celebrating a Purim Sameach!