Early Monday morning, March 2, 2015, in an early session Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) 2015 policy conference at the Washington Conference Center. Netanyahu focused primarily on two issues, the strong ties between Israel and US, and the threat of Iran in a tamer preview of what he will address to Congress on Tuesday. Netanyahu took a play from President Barack Obama’s administration and Secretary of State John Kerry who have been vehemently denying the obvious tension between the leaders and countries. The US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Power also addressed the morning session, with a statement of close ties between the two countries. Still underlying all this professed love; Obama is working to undermine the effectiveness of the Israeli prime minister’s historic address to Congress Tuesday morning, March 3.
Off the bat, Netanyahu reaffirmed the close ties between the US and Israel, declaring, “You are here to tell the world that reports of the demise of Israeli-U.S. relations are not only premature, they’re just wrong… Disagreements in the family are uncomfortable. But we must always remember that we are family. Our alliance is sound, our friendship is strong. The values that unite us are much stronger than issues that divide us…. because we share the same dream.”
Reiterating a statement he and his advisors has been stating all weekend, Netanyahu clarified his address to Congress is by no means an affront to President Obama. Netanyahu expressed, “I deeply appreciate all that President [Barack] Obama has done for Israel. I am deeply grateful … and so should you be… My speech is not intended to show any disrespect to President Obama or the esteemed office that he holds. I have great respect for both.” Continuing Netanyahu clarified “I am deeply grateful for this support and so should you be.”
Photo: Amos Ben Gershom GPO
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee AIPAC 2015 Policy Conference about Israel’s enduring ties with the US and Iran’s threat to Israel’s survival, March 2, 2015
The Israeli Prime Minister addressed Kerry’s “political football,” that Israel and the speech has become a partisan issue. Whereas by negotiating with Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH and the Republican Congressional leadership for the address to Congress, the speech has become pro-republican and partisan issue. Netanyahu said, “The last thing I would want is that Israel would become a partisan issue… Israel has always been a bipartisan issue; Israel should remain a bipartisan issue.”
The truth is Israel has become a partisan issue, Republicans and conservatives are more supportive of Israel, than Democrats and liberals who are too busy feeling concerned with the Palestinians and those who they deem as underdogs. It is true Israel is view as strong, too strong for liberal sympathies. Republican presidents have been more pro-Israel recently than their Democratic counterparts, Obama’s personal disdain and personality and political clash with his conservative Israeli counterpart has pitted Democrats no matter their religion against Republicans on Israel. The support for Israel ringing out at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference from potential 2016 GOP candidates seemed genuine as opposed to the hypocritical propaganda; the Obama Administration has been selling this past weekend.
The bulk of the speech revolved around the threat of Iran to Israel, why the prime minister must speak up on the issue and why the US and Israel differ so greatly on this issue. Netanyahu pointed out the obvious differences between the two countries, “The United States of America is a large country, one of the largest. Israel is a small country, one of the smallest. America lives in one of the world’s safest neighborhoods. Israel lives in the world’s most dangerous neighborhood. America is the strongest power in the world. Israel is strong, but it’s much more vulnerable. American leaders worry about the security of their country. Israeli leaders worry about the survival of their country.” The prime minister concluded, “because of these differences, America and Israel have had some serious disagreements over the course of our nearly 70-year-old friendship.”
Netanyahu has called his address to Congress a “crucial and even historical mission,” he does so because of the historical connection, or in fact break from the past when Jews suffered throughout history without a voice or platform to address and inform the world of the injustices, of anti-Semitism. Netanyahu said that after 2000 years of Jews being “defenseless” “Well, no more!” Instead of being, silenced Netanyahu wants to inform the world on the most watched stage of the threat Iran poses to Israel’s survival. The prime minister declared, “Those days are over. Today in the sovereign state of Israel, we defend ourselves… to defend our common civilization against common threats.”
Netanyahu indicated that Israel now speaks from a position of strength, “We are no longer silent. Today we have a voice. And tomorrow, I plan to use that voice. I plan to speak about an Iranian regime that’s developing the capacity to make nuclear weapons, lots of them.” Netanyahu indicated in one of his most repeated lines relating to the Iranian threat and his mission, “I have a moral obligation to speak up in the face of these dangers while there is still time to avert them.
It could not be a Netanyahu speech on a grand scale without a prop; the Israeli Prime minister likes his visuals old school. This time it was a map displaying, Iran’s “tentacles of terror” extending to five continents. Netanyahu explained his point, “Iran is the foremost state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Look at that map. As you see, it shows Iran training, arming, dispatching terrorists on five continents. Iran envelopes the entire world with its tentacles of terror. This is what Iran is doing now without nuclear weapons. Imagine what Iran would do with nuclear weapons. And this same Iran vows to annihilate Israel. If it develops nuclear weapons, it would have the means to achieve that goal. We must not let that happen.”
Netanyahu was received by a “roaring” receptive crowd of the over 16,000 in attendance at the conference, the largest ever. The audience was for the most part friendly, Jewish and supportive of Israel and the prime minister. Although early reports claimed AIPAC did not support Netanyahu ‘s address to Congress, the organization was quick to deny those accusations, maintaining they were supportive. The prime minister faces a tougher crowd at the capital tomorrow, with some reluctant and moody Democrats in attendance. The boycott actually helps Netanyahu, he will be spared of 27 Congressional representatives and 5 senators, and Vice President Joe Biden who stand with the White House and Obama’s views on a deal with Iran on the nuclear program. Speaker Boehner has promised the speech is hot ticket in Washington and the vacated seats will just be filled with a more sympathetic audience.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration is working to undermine Netanyahu before his big address to Congress. The administration is worried that the Israeli Prime Minister will reveal to much information and details surrounding the tentative framework deal with Iran that Secretary Kerry is working on securing with the P5+1 nations and Iran before the March 31 deadline. Kerry who is in Geneva, Switzerland spoke to reporters and said that he was “concerned by reports” about “selective details” being revealed and he warned Israel without naming them against doing so. Netanyahu’s advisor revealed to the press Sunday evening that Israel knows details about the deal that “uninformed” members of Congress do not, and Netanyahu intends to enlighten them.
President Obama is on the offensive and will sit down later Monday afternoon for an interview with Reuters meant as a rebuttal to anything Netanyahu plans to say to Congress. Prior to Netanyahu’s address to AIPAC US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power ardently defended Obama‘s pro-Israel credentials and record, declaring, “We believe firmly that Israel’s security and the US-Israel relationship transcends politics and it always will.” Power made an excuse for the recent tensions and criticism, explaining, the overall support is different from “separate politics, policy, and what the US does every day.” Addressing that Israel has become such a partisan issue, she said, “This relationship should not be politicized and it cannot ever be tarnished or broken”… the “stakes are too high.”
Later Monday evening National Security Susan Rice with address AIPAC, Rice has called Netanyahu upcoming speech “destructive” to US-Israel relations and it will be interesting if does a 180 degree turn as Kerry did from the House Foreign Relation Committee testimony earlier last week to his interview Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” Part of the efforts to undermine Netanyahu are to be obnoxiously sweet, selling President Obama’s dedication and record on Israel, when his disdain for Netanyahu motivated his administration’s sharp criticism the past six weeks in efforts to scare the Israeli Prime Minister away. Now that Netanyahu is in Washington Obama is trying to sell his devotion to Israel to 16,000 lobbyists and Israel supporters attending the AIPAC conference.
Although it seems the big test is the reception Netanyahu will receive at his Joint Address to Congress. The amount of applause and standing ovations mean nothing, and are all show if Netanyahu’s message does not go deeper with its impact. Netanyahu is looking for Congress to oppose the deal with Iran with the same ardent passion that Republicans have felt in their opposition to Obama’s most liberal policies, the economic bailout, Obamacare and immigration executive actions. Netanyahu will have a hard time finding that intense feeling with bipartisanship. Even if there is bipartisan support for the bill adding sanctions to Iran should a deal not be reached by the talks June 30 deadline, President Obama has promised to veto it, and there is never enough bipartisan feeling to override the veto with the necessary two-thirds majority.
That kind of fervor and enthusiasm over an issue is now almost an exclusively partisan feeling. Washington is too far gone in their partisan wars, to ever have Democrats last that long and oppose the wishes of President Obama, if there is a revolt it barely lasts long, especially now that Obama’s approval rating hovers at the 50 percent mark. Netanyahu already has the support he seeks from most Republicans, he might be able to convert some Democrats, but while Obama is president he is king, his word is supreme, his veto pen in hand and there is very little a huge Republican Congress can do, never mind the leader of a foreign country. If Netanyahu wins reelection, maybe the only way he can truly stop the deal with Iran is to rely on Israel’s strength, and take matters in his and Israeli government’s hands, and follow on his longtime threat of a preemptive attack on Iran. History has shown diplomacy has only gone so far, and unfortunately military might still speaks volumes more, sometime peace through strength only goes so far.
- Israeli PM Netanyahu’s Speech At The AIPAC Policy Conference, Israeli PMO, March 2, 2015
Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS is a journalist, librarian, editor, & historian. She writes regularly about news, politics, education, and Judaism for Examiner.com. She is the editor of Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program, where she focused on Medieval and Modern Judaism. Her specializations are the North American Jewish community, US, Canadian & Israeli politics, Jewish history, religion and cultural issues