What Netanyahu Should Tell Congress

For the record, I am unhappy about the way in which Netanyahu’s planned speech has been politicized and I think he should have figured out a better way to get his point across. I voted twice for President Obama and do not believe that he is trying to throw Israel under the bus. That said, I am among those who believe that Iran cannot be allowed to get nuclear weapons and all options must be on the table to stop them. If I was going to make a speech to congress in Netanyahu’s place, this is what I would say:

Before I say anything of substance I want to sincerely apologize to the President of the United States for any breach of protocol in the setting up of this speech. It was not my intention to offend anyone, least of all President Obama who is a true friend of Israel and I thank the President, the Congress and the American People for their steadfast support for my small state. Without your help it is difficult to imagine that Israel could have achieved all that it has.

In Israel, I come from a political tradition that believes in getting everything out on the table, even disagreements among family. Our parliament has epic debates where I have been called every name in the book. I cannot and do not take it personally, that is the essence of Democracy. Some of my fellow citizens say that I am destroying our relationship with the United States based upon this one speech. I cannot believe that. Our bonds of affection are too deep for that. We may disagree from time to time but there is no doubt that Israel represents a true friend of the United States and its most reliable ally in the Middle East. There is no other place where in a time of crisis Americans can be guaranteed a port in a storm other than Israel. Israelis love the American people with all our hearts and we thank God for the manifest blessing of your continued friendship.

Democracy is messy but it must be because it is the only system that provides people with the glorious opportunity to have a voice; to stand up and be counted in the great events of our time. I am the prime minister of a democratic nation of 8 Million in a region plagued by violence and atrocity. In my area of the world, Israel is a beacon of tolerance where Jews and Arabs sit together in Parliament and on our Supreme Court, where Arab and Jewish students in Israeli universities are learning to compete in an every more sophisticated world. We are imperfect and have real issues but we also have a lot going for us. Yet, for all our achievements we may still be considered just a side story in the events of the world. As such, I am humbled to have been invited to speak again to this body, the seat of the greatest and most powerful nation that has ever existed. However, poorly managed on my part was the process by which I speak to you now, I am here to try in my limited way to explain why I think it is so important that we act carefully and prudently in dealing with the threat of a nuclear armed Iran.

One fact amazes me. It is rarely covered in Western newspapers but every November 4 since 1979, Iranians have been celebrating the anniversary of their heinous and illegal seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Teheran. Every year on that day, the government of Iran holds massive anti-American rallies in which American Flags are burned and resounding chants of “Death to America” ring out on the streets. In 1987 Iranian leaders, many of who are still in power, declared the day as a national holiday to be called “Death to America Day”. What civilized nation in the world today has such a day? Death to America? This slogan is repeated and reinforced regularly in every strata of Iranian society. It has been made a part of regular Friday prayers in mosques around Iran and is a major part of most public events. It is also an Iranian export. Iran’s puppet Hezbollah regularly chants “Death to America” in its public rallies and the official slogan of the Iranian backed Houthi rebels who just deposed the U.S. backed government in Yemen is “God is Great, Death to America, Death to Israel, A curse upon the Jews, Victory to Islam.”

Iran does not just hate America; it hates Jews and is a major exporter of global anti-Semitism. Its terrorism against Jewish targets is global and has even reached the America’s where a bombing in Argentina a number of years ago is causing instability in the government. Another fact, after the horrendous Charlie Hedbo killings in Paris and the killing of 4 innocent Jews, the Iranian response was to have a holocaust denial cartoon contest!

As the Prime Minister of the only Jewish State in the world, I am particularly concerned about the constant cries from the leadership of Iran to eradicate and annihilate my country, which among many other things is the largest refuge of holocaust survivors in the world. That Iranian leaders should say and believe these things is deeply troubling and in my opinion cause for grave concern and soul searching before we leap into the breach and embark upon a dangerous path of trust.

Ultimately we have reached a crossroads. Some people of good conscience believe that there is an historic opportunity to change the paradigm; to encourage Iran to shed its revolutionary rhetoric and rejoin the community of nations. My fellow citizens and I pray fervently that this day will come and yet I have doubts. To me it is like the man who beats his wife in private but preaches non-violence in public. It is like the person who spouts racism and hate at home but keeps his opinion to himself at work so as not to lose his job. True reconciliation does not come out of two faces. It can only come out of one.

So in negotiating with Iran who are we to believe? Do we believe President Rouhani, who won an election based upon the idea of improving ties with the West? In spite of his continuation of anti western and anti Semitic language, there is no doubt that he represents a different type of politician than his predecessors, who it must be said had absolutely no interest in trying to reconcile with the West. Does President Rouhani represent the will of the people of Iran? He may well do. Unfortunately, in Iran, I am sorry to say the people do not rule.

It is tempting to see in President Rouhani someone who can be dealt with; a reasonable man trying to change the course of his country; but is it realistic to pin our hopes on him when we recall that the President of Iran is not its real leader? Is it not true that in the last election the entire slate of candidates for President of Iran was hand picked by another man; the real leader of Iran?

When dealing with Iran then, we must remember that President Rouhani attractive as he may be is not the person who makes policy. That person, the real leader of Iran, is an Ayatollah who was instrumental in the Revolution of 1979 and was a key participant in the taking of the American Embassy and the resulting hostage crisis. Ayatollah Khameini is a revolutionary who has preached anti-American hate consistently from the time of the Iranian Revolution and continues to do so. He is the supreme leader and maintains dictatorial powers. He controls the elite Revolutionary Guards that so brutally crushed and murdered his own people when the government rigged its last Presidential election.

In order for Iran to change, Ayatollah Khameini must change. We have seen no indication that he has. Is it possible that Iran is playing good-cop bad cop with our negotiating team? Smiling moderate Rouhani speaks to the cameras and Ayatollah Khameini plots in the shadows? I don’t know. All I know is that when negotiating with Iran, Western leaders must not forget the chants of “Death to America” and what they portend.

I am the leader of a small country in the Middle East, but I am not alone in my concerns about Iran and its desire to spread its revolution throughout the region. America has build a web of allies in the region including Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey and while I cannot speak for them our contacts report and newspaper accounts bear this out extensively that they are all very concerned about Iranian attempts to expand its influence through the region and fund violent Shiite militias as they have in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.

Indeed Iran is a supporter of terror and continues to be such. Iran has sent advanced military grade weapons to these terrorist groups and have fomented revolution, death and destruction in a number of countries. Iran funds terrorist groups that continue to attack my country. Hezbollah has more than 100,000 Iranian rockets pointed at Israel, all courtesy of Iran. Iran has also been the main supporters of President Assad’s genocidal regime in Syria, which is responsible for the death of over 200,000 of its own citizens. What do we see when we look at all of these military advances. Iranian troops are on the ground in Syria and its proxies are everywhere in the Middle East.

When we recognize this fact do we see a sincere desire for peace and goodwill or do we see an aggressive power hell-bent on domination. When we think about rapprochement with Iran, we need to think about these facts as well.

Iran claims to need a civilian nuclear program, which it claims is its peaceful right. While much of the advanced world is abandoning its nuclear reactors, Iran, one of the largest global producers of petroleum is hell bent on building nuclear power, not solar power, not wind power; NUCLEAR power. It has been found by the intelligence agencies of the United States to be working on a military nuclear program. From time to time it seems to have put this program on the back burner but there is no doubt that they are making efforts to build this program and have not be forthcoming in letting the international community inspect its many nuclear sites. Centrifuges necessary to process nuclear fuel and weapons are spinning in the thousands every minute of every day. They are building the potential for a bomb. Will they create one? I don’t know, only they know.

Iran is also one of the few countries with an active program to build Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. Iran already has the largest arsenal of Missiles in the Middle East and can hit my country with ease. So why do they need to build Missiles that are capable of carrying warheads thousands of miles. The latest Iranian Missiles can hit Europe already. The Pentagon’s January 2014 Annual Report on Iran states that “With sufficient foreign assistance, Iran may be technically capable of flight testing an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States by 2015.” The words of the Pentagon, not mine. I ask again. Why is it necessary for Iran to have an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile program capable of hitting the United States?

There are many other points I could cite but it would not answer the fundamental question at this crossroads. Is it safe for the United States to trust Iranian words which have been so clearly meant to confuse the West thus far. Is it safe to trust them? Nothing in my experience has led me to believe their intentions towards us are good. Indeed the only reason they have come to the table at all is due to crushing sanctions. Why not maintain the sanctions or strengthen them since they are the only thing that appears to have worked at all? Iran can have a deal, one in which there is no possibility that one day an Iranian missile with a nuke on top hits another country or a suitcase nuke ends up in the hand of Iran’s terrorist allies. I would trust that kind of deal and believe that this is the safest path and the path that will lead to peace.

I want peace, I pray for it daily for the region and for my people and for the United States. Experience has taught the Jewish people that sometimes praying is not enough; sometimes we must take an unpopular but realistic stand that does not view all people as sharing our values. There is evil in the world and we cannot let evil get nuclear weapons. Thank you. God Bless Israel and God Bless the United States of America.

About the Author
David Sher has a keen, longstanding interest in Israel and spent a study year abroad in Israel in 1984. He is an entrepreneur who has founded four businesses including Greenbacker Renewable Energy Company, his current business.