To Speak or Not To Speak

Rarely has a speech given by a foreign international leader received voluminous oceans of words, warnings and dire consequences as that given to ally and friend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. He is only the second leader, after another Prime Minister, this time from England, Winston Churchill, to have addressed the joint Congress three times for a political Olympic record…and whereas the English leader was formulating the need for America to assist its ally in a looming world war, the second Prime Minister was trying to avert yet another conflagration in his part of the world.

When all the political opinions, insights, and distractions are put to rest and silenced, and the mixed responses and reactions to the speech, and the seeming lack of protocol, disseminated, lets now get down to the matter at hand which is: Did the Israeli Prime Minister flout political etiquette by questioning the terms of a proposed treaty with Iran in the country of his host President and did he have anything substantial to say on the matter ?

You heard the speech – with such a build up who would have wanted to avoid it, unless you were one of the 58 Democratic lawmakers who just wanted to mimic an ostrich and just dig their heads in the ground, as if nothing of import was happening in the home of the most powerful legislature in the world. And amidst all the brouhaha, why was such a speech necessary from Netanyahu to the American Congress ?

What must never be forgotten is that, at this present time, the entire Middle East is a tinderbox waiting to explode out of control. It nearly has already. It is a topography with failed states: in Libya and Syria, leaders are still massacring their own peoples; and ever-increasing litany of terrorist thugs and murderers creating havoc and destruction wherever they happen to be roaming (and they’re roaming over vast areas of geography); and a total breakdown of any sense of law and order flourishes in an extremely combustible part of the world. And then there’s Israel…and Prime Minister Netanyahu. For he, more so than any other leader in the area, realizes that the one country that is pulling the strings on so many players in the region is Iran whose sole dream is to rule the entire region and use its terrorist satraps to fulfill this aim.

But then there is ISIS whose purpose is similar, and so the conflict and the question of history is: which side will succeed ? And the point is that whoever might possibly overcome the other will be a threat to the western world. Favoring one side over the other just to bring about the defeat of the other will only enable one world threat over another. As Netanyahu stated: The enemy of my enemy is…my enemy. That Iran might now hold the potential for nuclear capability will witness the area roll towards an unenviable and dangerous propensity for destabilization of the entire region.

Iran’s leaders are not nice people, whoever they may be: they spew hatred for Israel, target the western world for destruction, and help their co-religionists neutralize the presence of anyone not of their same religious persuasion. And they will support terrorism around the world that targets Jews and Americans and a vast assortment of innocents in order to pursue their political goals and religious endeavors.

The ongoing fear of these nuclear talks, which Netanyahu could not have stated to Congress, is that when it comes to America’s foreign policy initiatives, President Obama has failed. In Syria, he drew the red line so many times regarding Bashar Assad’s use of chemical warfare on his people that the line itself became indiscernible from all the gas used !! In the Ukraine, Russia’s Putin has been dancing circles all around Obama and Kerry without being prevented from continuing his own personal war in the region. And the picture that emerges is that of a President who lucks the luster of a master strategist, who is seen as being weak and whose word cannot be trusted because he lacks the international authority to impose any kind of American power anywhere in the world (except for a few air strikes against ISIS – but remember, No Boots On The Ground !!) Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAR, Oman and indeed the entire region is on notice that they just have no faith at all in the current American leader or his policies. Wouldn’t it be somewhat ironic if all these countries came together in an alliance with Israel because of the shared depressing understanding that America (and Europe) created a vacuum of weakness in its dealings with Iran that forced them to fend for themselves.

So can you be at all surprised when Prime Minister Netanyahu comes to the Congress in order to state the tone of righteous impatience and indignation while the security and survival of his country, and indeed of the region, is put in jeopardy because of a perceived negotiating process that just won’t work because one country cannot be trusted and the other is sees to be bushwhacked ? So let’s forget about Pelosi’s  apparent breaking into tears, and the perceived lack of protocol: what this entire discussion is about, and Netanyahu’s speech to Congress particularly so, is a cry from the depths from a leader to the strongest ally he has to help save the region, and particularly Israel, from going up in nuclear flames.


Chaim Landau

President, Baltimore Board of Rabbis


About the Author
Rabbi Chaim Landau is Emeritus Rabbi and President of the Baltimore Board of Rabbis. He served the Bnai Jacob Congregation and later Ner Tamid Congregation in Baltimore. He was born in the UK, graduated Jews College with Bachelors Degree in Jewish Studies, has Smichah from Israel.