The greeting Benjamin Netanyahu received in the US Congress chambers today reminded us of how strong a relationship America and Israel have with each other, regardless of who is in power in either country.
Despite boycott threats from Democrats, their leadership joined with Republicans in heartedly welcoming the Israeli prime minister to the podium. For the most part, they also cheered mightily during his remarks.
Yes, Bibi came hat in hand to just about the only nation on Earth that considers Israel a friend. That’s what you do when a bully on your block is threatening you. You find a big, strong friend to protect you.
Netanyahu was gracious in his opening comments. Even though the American president did not welcome this speech, Israel’s conservative leader thanked Barack Obama for the things he had done for Israel. Bibi even made a point of welcoming Senate minority leader Harry Reid (D-Utah) back after an injury.
Bibi made his case concerning the acceptance of what he calls a “bad deal” with Iran over its nuclear program. Israel is surrounded by neighbors that desire its destruction.
These countries don’t even try to hide it. First and foremost among them is Iran, who as Netanyahu made clear, has been unambiguous about its plan to annihilate Israel.
Lest the US leadership think that Iran only means to destroy the nation and leave the Jews alone, he reminded them that Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Iranian proxy Hezbollah, has commented that “if all the Jews gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of chasing them down around the world.”
Bibi’s spoke of the present nuclear negotiations with Iran by the Obama administration as similar to attempts by a parent to deal with a rebellious child. Further, he described Tehran’s present behavior as a kind that threatens the entire Middle East.
“In the Middle East, Iran now dominates four Arab capitals, Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa. And if Iran’s aggression is left unchecked, more will surely follow.
So, at a time when many hope that Iran will join the community of nations, Iran is busy gobbling up the nations,” sad Netanyahu.
Perhaps Bibi’s best argument did not concern the protection of Israel from destruction, but how a nuclear armed Iran would result in nuclear proliferation around the entire region. Nations such as Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia would not stand idly by while its Shiite enemy gathered atomic weapons,
Netanyahu indicated this would risk nuclear war and threaten not only the peace of the Middle East, but of the entire world.
“This deal won’t be a farewell to arms,” he said. “It would be a farewell to arms control.”
And the Middle East would soon be crisscrossed by nuclear tripwires. A region where small skirmishes can trigger big wars would turn into a nuclear tinderbox.”
Netanyahu did not rule out making a deal with Iran concerning its nukes, but he wants Iran to change its present behavior.
“If Iran wants to be treated like a normal country, let it act like a normal country,” he said.
Bibi finished his speech with a comment which at first sounded like a threat, one that could have suddenly turned the harmonious atmosphere in the House chamber into ice.
Netanyahu noted,”For the first time in 100 generations, we, the Jewish people, can defend ourselves.
This is why — this is why, as a prime minister of Israel, I can promise you one more thing: Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand.”
When that statement came from Bibi’s lips, my first thought was,”Uh-oh.” But he finished his thought with this:
“But I know that Israel does not stand alone. I know that America stands with Israel.
I know that you stand with Israel.”
One again, Bibi offered a gracious olive branch to the Obama administration.
Netanyahu knows America and Israel share a biblical heritage, a connection that Republicans have accused Barack Obama of replacing with Islamic influences. He made allusions to this truth in his remarks.
Early on, Bibi referred to the current threat to Israel by relating it the ancient biblical story of Queen Esther. A Jew, she saved her people from a Persian enemy, an event celebrated on March 4 by Purim.
Further, at the end of his talk Netanyahu pointed to a sculpture of Moses in the House chamber. He quoted the biblical patriarch to the Congressional membership,first in Hebrew, then in English.
“Be strong and resolute, neither fear nor dread them.”
Netanyahu whetted my own appetite for Bible reading today with these remarks. I have decided that after I finish this piece I am going back and read the book of Esther for my own edification, not for any geopolitical purposes.
During his speech Bibi showed why the people of Israel elected him. He is a strong leader in dangerous times.
The Israeli prime minister is also a gracious one. I have much more hope for Israeli-American relations after this appearance before my country’s leaders.
Some of them appeared to view Bibi as government leaders did the aliens in the film “Mars Attack”. Looking at their faces it seemed to me that Netanyahu’s world view was completely strange. But for the most part, as noted above, his comments were warmly received by members of both parties.
Israel is not guiltless in the world, but what nation is? It certainly doesn’t deserve to have its fate left in the hands of religious fanatics, people who run a government which has made it crystal clear that it seeks to obliterate the Jews from the face of the Earth.
I hope after Bibi’s talk that our president understands that. If he doesn’t, may the Congressional leaders who gave him a standing ovation take up Israel’s defense instead.