Faigie Heiman
Sixty plus years in Jerusalem

Should he or shouldn’t he

The audacity of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accept the invitation to address the US Congress on March 3rd is causing media machines to spin out of control.

Newscasts in Israel are full of heated discussion about the Netanyahu family’s foibles, but polls in favor of Netanyahu’s Likud party continue to rise as the Prime Minister confirms his intention to accept Speaker of the House Boehner’s invitation to talk to America about the threat of a nuclear Iran.

The negative discussions, journalist columns and blogs against the Prime Minister’s Congressional address far outweigh any positive opinions supporting his speaking engagement. Our Prime Minister is being harassed from the left and right at home, from both sides of the ocean, and from political parties on all sides of the Mediterranean.  Yet I believe that there are many more in favor of his attendance than what appear on paper, on plasma, or voiced on air.

Our Prime Minister is blessed to have been born into a family headed by his father, Professor Ben-Zion Netanyahu, a scholar of Judaic history. History is part of our P.M.’s DNA, and Israeli citizens are the beneficiaries of his sense of history, of his attachment to the Jewish people and the Jewish state.  Mr. Netanyahu, like most Jews, understands that one who is disconnected from the past has no future, and one who fails to learn from mistakes is doomed to repeat them. It is well known that P.M. Netanyahu is a fan of Winston Churchill, who advocated learning historical lessons, and who demonstrated that appeasement is not a response to immoral enemies.

Like Churchill, Mr. Netanyahu is firmly taking the moral high ground, regardless of criticism against him for doing so.  Great leaders have always been men who were harassed and heckled, their ideas rejected until later in life, or sometimes after death when their beliefs and actions were finally acknowledged and validated.

Abraham Lincoln was not recognized in his lifetime as the beloved President he is today. His rise to the presidency followed dissension against his anti-slavery stand and resulted in his presiding over the Civil War that concluded with victory for the North, and the abolishment of slavery in the United States. While Lincoln was the first president to be assassinated due to bitter disagreement over his abolitionist policies, he is still remembered as one of the greatest presidents ever to serve his country. He is celebrated for his sincerity, honesty, and his debates, speeches, and famous addresses that young students one hundred years after his assassination were still required to memorize. Few American presidents are revered as Lincoln.

American Jews largely supported President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who presided during the Second World War that America and her allies won.  But his legacy as a beloved statesman has been tarnished by his historical record that shows he was undisturbed by the suffering of Jews in Europe. David Wyman’s 1986 book, Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust 1941-1945, pp. 311-313, summarizes the many ways Roosevelt and his administration failed to rescue Jews in WWII. One small example of Roosevelt’s indifference to the plight of the Jews throughout the war years was his refusal to allow the St. Louis, a ship carrying nearly 1,000 Jewish refugees from the Third Reich, to disembark in the United States, forcing the ship to sail back to Europe, refusing help to Jewish lives in danger.  Did Roosevelt’s friendly advisor, the Reform Jewish leader Stephen Wise deem it important for the President to be involved rescuing Jews from Nazi Europe? Wise advised President Roosevelt not to meet with the 400 Orthodox Rabbis that marched on Washington in 1943.

The Reform Jewish movement of yesteryear is the same movement it is today, objecting to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Congressional address and declaring that, as American Jews, Mr. Netanyahu does not represent them.

What kind of leader can Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be if he is not willing to adhere to the warnings and advice of senior American officials? How dare the Israeli electorate re-elect a man who does not exhibit gratitude to the United States President, the leader of the free world? Tough questions are thrown at us daily, and they need clarification.

Mr. Netanyahu was invited to address the United States Congress precisely because he is considered the world expert on the threat of Iranian nuclear expansionism. Israel’s Prime Minister believes that a nuclear-armed Iran is the most dangerous threat to the western world, particularly to Israel. He is willing to go any place, any time, to explain, to warn, to discuss, to plead Israel’s case for Iranian nuclear disarmament. Our Prime Minister is willing to stand up to ridicule, to scorn, to all the negative press and anger heaped on him, as he believes that cause is just.

The United States is negotiating the biggest sell-out that country has known, and the Israeli Prime Minister owes the United States Congress the benefit of his expert knowledge and opinion to be put before the American people, despite the massive leftist hate campaign against him.

Ultimately, history will be the final judge. I am prepared to wager that Benjamin Netanyahu will go down on the pages of history as the great Prime Minister of Israel who fought for his country bravely, on every battlefield, from every platform on every continent. His opponents will be fortunate to attain a footnote somewhere at the bottom of those historical pages.

G-d should grant Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu abundant success in his mission to attain security for Israel and the world.

About the Author
Faigie Heiman is a frequent contributor of essays and short stories to Jewish newspapers and magazines, and author of a popular memoir, Girl For Sale. Born in Brooklyn, she made Aliya in 1960 with her husband and together raised a three-generation family in Jerusalem spanning six historical decades.