A very splendid Purim – a healing Purim that brought laughter and a sense of hope – is over, as is Shabbat. I want now to pick up on posting again by looking at some thoughts regarding PM Netanyahu’s speech in Congress last week. So many of my readers sent op-eds and articles on the subject, that I acknowledge you here, collectively, but with special appreciation to Barbara O.
When I wrote about the speech last week, I described the incredible standing ovation Bibi received on entering the Congressional Chambers. I provided a link to a video of the talk, but commented that it left out those first stunning moments. Well, an alert reader found a version of the video that includes it. Some of you might want to see it, even if you have already viewed the speech, because it truly is a moving sight:
There is one commentator I encountered – J.E. Dyer – who opined that the “robust” support exhibited by Congress was perhaps Netanyahu’s key victory: The cheers, the sustained applause and roughly 27 standing ovations. The affirmation from Congress, which was not simply ritual, is what the prime minister came for, “and what he had to take home.”
Far more accurately than anything Obama says, the Congress represents the people of the United States. The people are with Israel.
It’s what he came for and what he had to take home.
There are those who were eager to attack the prime minister’s speech and attempted to do so with a nonsensical approach. They claimed he had given the speech only for campaign purposes. Or that he didn’t say anything.
One of the most ludicrous arguments I have read maintains that it is essential to strike a successful deal with Iran, because that is the only way the West can have any control over what happens. If negotiators walk away with no deal in hand, Iran will just go ahead and make a bomb. (This is essentially a “bad deal is better than no deal” argument, which is the reverse of what Kerry has been saying consistently.)
All of those who suggest this are advised to get real. If there were no deal struck, then it would be imperative to levy strangling sanctions against Iran.
And then there are those who claim Netanyahu criticized without suggesting a better approach. This is simply not the case. I outlined Bibi’s parameters in my last posting: tough sanctions that bring pressure on Iran as long as it is fostering terrorism world-wide, exhibiting aggression and takeovers aimed at hegemony in the Middle East, and threatening to destroy Israel. Roll back Iran’s infrastructure (which means dismantling of centrifuges).
The fact that we are seeing shallow thinking in response to the speech in certain quarters is most discouraging, but not terribly surprising. There is no desire to grapple with the true issues.
John Podhoretz, writing in the NY Post, delivered some sharp observations about the situation (emphasis added):
Obama, he wrote, with his constant harping about the speech generated a result quite the reverse of what he had intended:
“For six weeks, the president and his team have been letting it be known just how angry they are that the leader of the House of Representatives invited the Israeli prime minister to speak about the threat from Iran.
“The enraged leaks and overt hostility toward the head of state of an ally have been unprecedented.
“The White House even tried to engineer a mass Democratic boycott of the speech…
“What did all of this do? It made the Netanyahu speech the most important political event of 2015 by far.
“It elevated Netanyahu’s powerful case against a nuclear deal with Iran to the highest level possible — so that the leader of a country of 8 million people roughly the size of New Jersey now possesses as much authority to discuss the issue as the leader of the free world.
“Netanyahu yesterday laid out, calmly and comprehensively, the reasons the deal is likely to be a bad one — and he had not only an audience of Americans vastly larger than he would’ve had if the president hadn’t had his hissy fit, but also the ear of the audience that matters most in this regard.
“That audience is the United States Senate.
“And his audience heard him.
“Tuesday afternoon, after Netanyahu scored his success, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced he’ll bring up a piece of legislation requiring Senate consideration of any Iran deal for 60 days…”
Podhoretz believes Bibi’s speech may have provided the impetus for a veto override, with sufficient number of Democrats joining the Republicans.
“Almost from the outset, I thought the speech was a bad political idea…
“Well, I was wrong.
“I forgot I was talking about Barack Obama here, whose own political smarts extend as far as his own brilliance in getting himself elected and no further.
“The president thought (and I thought) he could use the coming speech to set up a confrontation with Bibi that would make his job of selling the Iran deal easier.
“It might have worked if the speech had been a dud. You know, like Obama’s own State of the Union, delivered on the very same spot six weeks ago.
“But it wasn’t. It was a triumph — because, unlike Obama, Netanyahu had something of surpassing importance to say, and he said it with force, with strength, with conviction and with grace.”
Jennifer Rubin, writing in the Washington Post, concurred with Podhoretz, that:
“…it is evident that had the president not thrown a fit, Netanyahu’s speech might not have garnered quite so much attention….
“The speech was not aimed at the president, who is immune to reason, nor to the negotiators who suffer from a variation of Stockholm Syndrome, whereby they come to identify with their bargaining opponents more than the country they represent. It was aimed at American public opinion and uncertain Democrats on whose good judgment Netanyahu must rely to derail a disastrous deal. By flattering the president and Democrats, Netanyahu gave them an out to agree with him without crossing the president or appearing to give in to Republicans.” (emphasis added)
A day later, taking Netanyahu very seriously, the Washington Post released an editorial,
“Obama needs to provide real answers to Netanyahu’s arguments.”
Of course, he won’t. He cannot.
The most startling echo of this Washington Post call came from Faisel J. Abbas, editor in chief of Al-Arabiya in English, who wrote: “President Obama, Listen to Netanyahu on Iran”:
”It is extremely rare for any reasonable person to ever agree with anything Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says or does.
“However, one must admit, Bibi did get it right, at least when it came to dealing with Iran.
“The Israeli PM managed to hit the nail right on the head when he said that Middle Eastern countries are collapsing and that ‘terror organizations, mostly backed by Iran, are filling in the vacuum’…
“What is absurd, however, is that despite this being perhaps the only thing that brings together Arabs and Israelis (as it threatens them all), the only stakeholder that seems not to realize the danger of the situation is President Obama, who is now infamous for being the latest pen-pal of the Supreme Leader of the World’s biggest terrorist regime: Ayottallah Ali Khamenei. Although, the latter never seems to write back!.
As Netanyahu frequently tells us, times are indeed changing.
Even as I am eager to share thoughts here, I would say that the dust has not yet settled: that the full impact of what was said by Bibi cannot yet be measured.
What I wait for, with some considerable unease, is a resounding response from the Israeli electorate. That Netanyahu must be returned to the office of prime minister is a given, with the notion of a Herzog-Livni win the stuff of nightmares. Netanyahu’s resolute position, his brilliance in making his case, his leadership – these should translate into a strong majority of Israelis voting him back into office. But the polls, which are infamously unreliable, are not yet reflecting this – at least with regard to their intention to vote Likud. We are in the midst of an election that I am finding very ugly indeed.
More to come, on internal matters, the PA, and more, in posts later this week.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org