Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before the U.S. Congress yesterday was brilliant. The negative reaction to it of U.S. President Barack Obama and some other Democratic officials was outrageous.
Netanyahu made clear how he had come for the weightest of reasons—“I feel a profound obligation to speak to you about an issue that could well threaten the survival of my country and the future of my people: Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons.”
His comparing, early on, the Iranian nuclear situation with Purim was meaningful. In the thousands of years of Jewish history “many have tried repeatedly to destroy the Jewish people,” he noted, relating how on the following night “on the Jewish holiday of Purim, we’ll read the Book of Esther. We’ll read of a powerful Persian viceroy named Haman, who plotted to destroy the Jewish people some 2,500 years ago. But a courageous Jewish woman, Queen Esther, exposed the plot” and it was “foiled. Our people were saved.”
“Today the Jewish people face another attempt by yet another Persian potentate to destroy us,” said Netanyahu.
An interview I did last week resonated in me—the subject of my last blog here—with Dr. Marc Benhuri, author of Price For Freedom, just made into a movie, based on how members of his Iranian Jewish family were tortured and murdered when Ayatollah Khomeni came to power in 1979.
He was studying in the U.S. at the time, stayed to earn degrees in dentistry and engineering and became a pioneer in implant surgery. But his connections with Iran never ended from, as a college student, arranging through a Muslim friend in London a $150,000 bribe to an ayatollah to get his father freed from prison.
Obama and his administration are “making a critical mistake in the history of the world” by believing, said Benhuri, that through negotiations they could get Iran to desist in building nuclear weapons. A key declaration of their intent:“Iran is constantly maintaining that they are only seeking nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. But for nuclear medicine and nuclear power, only five percent enrichment of uranium is necessary. They want to keep thousands of centrifuges…to enrich uranium by 20 percent and more. You don’t need such highly-enriched uranium for nuclear medicine or nuclear power—that’s only for atomic bombs. And the heavy water facilities they have and want to keep, that, too, is only for atomic bombs. They want to make atomic bombs.”
I asked Benhuri about his family’s background and he explained how it went back in what’s now Iran for, yes, 2,500 years. “We are children of Esther,” he said, and began speaking of the Purim story.
This past Saturday, after services at Temple Adas Israel in Sag Harbor, I attended a study session about Purim. Discussed was how in every generation Jews have faced severe persecution. I reflected on the interview a few days earlier with Benhuri about Iran and nuclear weapons, and I related it. Then came Netanyahu and his prefacing his remarks with the Purim story.
Importantly, Netanyahu emphasized that he was not proposing war as an alternative to a bad deal. “Now we’re being told that the only alternative to this bad deal is war,” he said. “That’s just not true. The alternative to this bad deal is a much better deal. A better deal that doesn’t leave Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure…”
“History has placed us at a fateful crossroads,” said Netanyahu. “We must now choose between two paths. One path leads to a bad deal that will at best curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions for a while, but it will inexorably lead to a nuclear-armed Iran whose unbridled aggression will inevitably lead to war. The second path, however difficult, could lead to a much better deal, that would prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, a nuclearized Middle East and the horrific consequences of both to all of humanity.”
Obama’s response? He said Netanyahu didn’t offer any “viable alternatives” to the negotiations with Iran, according to the Associated Press. After “he read a transcript,” he said “‘there was nothing new’ in the speech.”
“Fear-mongering,” Congressman John Yarmuth of Kentucky called the speech.
“What I heard today felt to me like an effort to stamped the United States into war once again,” said Congressman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois.
There were a good many Democrats who understood and spoke out. “Prime Minister Netanyahu made a powerful presentation to members of Congress regarding the threat of a nuclear Iran,” said Congresswoman Nita Lowey of New York.
Republicans, meanwhile, are providing solid support. Congressman Robert Pittenger of North Carolina, said: “Benjamin Netanyahu is the Winston Churchill of our day, warning the world about Iran. President Obama is the Neville Chamberlain of our day, in seemingly total denial of the enormous risk and” how vulnerable we are to Iran’s “nuclear capabilities.”
In the Wall Street Journal yesterday, Bret Stephens, author of America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder, charged that the Obama administration was involved in “a sellout of Jerusalem.” It’s “an historical betrayal” in which other Democratic officials “are being asked by the president to participate. In the end, everyone is accountable to history. At moments like this, it’s better to be on the side of the brave.”
My congressman, Lee Zeldin, who represents eastern Long Island, described the Netanyahu address as an “impactful, substantive speech.” Zeldin is a Republican who last year defeated a six-term Democrat who was a consistent Obama supporter, a major campaign issue for Zeldin. “I think the Democratic Party has an identity crisis right now,” said Zeldin, co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus. “There are members of Congress, Democrats, who understand we can’t support a bad deal. There are Democrats, members of Congress, who get it. The problem is the leader of their party, the president, who is negotiating this deal…has a different foreign policy than those who get it.”
In a stinging rebuke to Obama, U.S. voters last year gave the Republican Party the largest majority in the House of Representatives since the 1920s, and the party also took control of the Senate.
If Obama stood for election again—which he can’t because of U.S. term limits on the presidency—I’d say his stance on a nuclear deal with Iran and general softness on radical Islam would be major elements resulting in his being soundly defeated.