Netanyahu’s speech to Congress

Netanyahu’s speech to Congress

Well, it was a zinger of a speech and PM Binyamin Netanyahu delivered it with more than his usual aplomb. He spoke with eloquence, passion and urgency.  I was pleasantly surprised that the speech wasn’t just a tirade or a warning against the bad deal being hatched by President Obama between the p5+1 (or maybe just the US) and Iran, but it also contained a solution of sorts; at the very least a practical suggestion – to increase sanctions on Iran until they completely cease their enrichment program. Sanctions are what brought Iran to the table in the first place; sanctions are what will continue to exert pressure on them. There is simply no sense in easing the pressure on them at this stage.

It was gratifying to note that Netanyahu received dozens of standing ovations – over 40 by some counts (I lost count myself) – and these from both sides of Congress.

Here is a link to the full text of the speech, via Israellycool. And here is the video of the speech:

Some of the salient points that Netanyahu made:

I particularly liked Gerald Steinberg’s (of NGO Monitor) tweet:

Some final comments:

Below you can see my live-tweeting of the speech (scroll down for earlier tweets. The latest tweets are on the top).

David Horovitz in the Times of Israel talks about Netanyahu’s “devastating, irrevocable indictment of Obama” and reckons Bibi has burned his bridges with Obama:

In the event, Netanyahu did deliver the speech of his life… and caused devastating, presumably irrevocable damage to his relationship with President Barack Obama.

Although diplomatic in tone — and complete with deliberate Churchillian flourishes — “some change, some moderation,” he intoned of Iran under Hassan Rouhani — Netanyahu’s speech was in essence a devastating assault on Obama. He began, dutifully, with expressions of appreciation for the president, and for everything the president has done for Israel. But he continued, for the vast majority of his address, to explain the profound misjudgment of Iran — its ideology, its goals, and the immense danger it constitutes to Israel, the region, the United States, and the world — that lies at the heart of the “very bad deal” emerging from the US-led P5+1 negotiations. And thus, by extension, he was explaining the profound misjudgment of Iran at the core of Obama’s worldview and policies.

For all the cynicism and the political filtering over Netanyahu’s motivations, furthermore, the prime minister is convinced, in his heart of hearts, that Iran is determined to advance its benighted ideology across the region and beyond. The prime minister is convinced, in his heart of hearts, that the deal taking shape will immunize the ayatollahs from any prospect of revolution from within or effective challenge from without. The deal “doesn’t block Iran’s path to the bomb,” he warned. “It paves Iran’s path to the bomb.”

And the cardinal fact is that the prime minister is convinced, in his heart of hearts, that the Islamist regime in Tehran is bent on the destruction of Israel. Ayatollah Khamenei “tweets that Israel must be annihilated,” Netanyahu wailed, repeating: “He tweets! You know, in Iran, there isn’t exactly free Internet. But he tweets in English that Israel must be destroyed.”

Although a first, anonymous response to his speech from an unnamed White House official said that Netanyahu had offered “no concrete alternative” to the deal taking shape, and that his speech was “all rhetoric and no action,” and despite Obama’s subsequent elaborate defense of the US approach, the prime minister did offer an alternative. He urged the P5+1 to recalibrate, to reconsider, and then to push for a better deal. And “if Iran threatens to walk away from the table — and this often happens in a Persian bazaar — call their bluff,” he advised, the wise, wary Middle Easterner lecturing Obama and the other Western naifs. “They’ll be back, because they need the deal a lot more than you do.”

Keep those words in mind – that Netanyahu DID offer an alternative to the bad deal on the table at present.

After the speech Netanyahu met with the bipartisan leadership of Congress, stressing their support for Israel from both sides of Congress:

Shortly after his speech to Congress, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met on Tuesday with the bipartisan leadership of the Senate, pursuant to an invitation extended last week by Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Harry Reid (D-NV).

Also attending the meeting were John Barrasso (R-WY), John Thune (R-SD), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John McCain (R-AZ), Al Franken (D-MN), John Cornyn (R-TX), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Bob Corker (D-TN).

At the start of the meeting Prime Minister Netanyahu said:

“I do want to thank the leadership of the Senate, Republicans and Democrats, both sides of the aisle, for inviting me here, giving me an opportunity to state Israel’s concern about an issue that could be the most important issue of our times. I believe it is.

“I was very moved by the attention and the responses to the speech from both sides of the aisle, and it’s very clear to me and it was clear in that hall to anyone who was there that the support for Israel is strongly bipartisan, that there is a very broad support of the American people and its representative for the Jewish state and I’m very, very grateful for that,” he added.

“Thank you, thank you.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu told the senators that the two new items in his address to Congress were the need to enact more vigorous restrictions in the agreement being formulated and thus lengthen the time it will take for Iran to break through to nuclear weapons. Also, in the agreement being formulated these restrictions must not be lifted automatically within a decade but only after Iran will have fulfilled three conditions: Stopping its support for global terrorism, stopping its aggression against its neighbors and stopping to threaten Israel’s annihilation.

Israellycool has a great Twitter timeline of the reactions (both good and bad) to Netanyahu’s speech. Here’s just a sampling:

Obama’s reaction stands out in its ungraciousness and unstatesmanship: it was as pathetic as it was unsurprising in its juvenile peevishness:

Remember those words I quoted above? As David Horovitz repeated, Netanyahu did indeed offer some alternative – if only Obama was listening.

Obama’s behaviour, from his first angry objection to Netanyahu’s invitation to Washington, through his attempts to stymie the speech and then denouncing and decrying it while belittling and humiliating Netanyahu, through to this final pathetic reaction, stands in stark contrast to Netanyahu’s graciousness in acknowledging American support and his statesmanship in clearly stating the existential dangers facing Israel due to Obama’s very support for this deal with Iran.

Obama’s willingness to endanger not only Israel but the United States and the entire West is also highlighted by Netanyahu’s unabashed patriotism, his affection for his nation and his obligation to protect the citizens of his country.

Countering claims (particularly from the Israeli Left) that Netanyahu was merely electioneering, it can be claimed quite satisfactorily that in fact the speech was a huge risk for Netanyahu since it was not popular with the entire Israeli public for the very reasons the Left set out: that he was endangering ties with America and possibly leading us to war.  Therefore he was all the more courageous in going ahead with this speech since the existential threats to Israel are far worse than any possible electoral defeat.

In my humble opinion Israel can be proud of her Prime Minister today. I just hope his message fell on open and willing ears.

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25 Responses to Netanyahu’s speech to Congress

  1. Fay says:

    Watched it live. Bibi’s a rock star 🙂
    “When it comes to Iran and ISIS, the enemy of your enemy is your enemy” Bravo Bibi.

  2. Irene Matthews says:

    This is what a world leader should sound like and I haven’t heard the likes of it since RR was in the Whitehouse. It’s been a very long time. G_d help both of our countries.

  3. LL Cheung says:

    Bravo Bibi! I have noticed some missing segments in the Youtube video above, comparing with that of the Washington Post website and its full script:
    At 26:02
    Iran plans to have 190,000 centrifuges…<< not 6,000 or even the 19,000 that Iran has today, but 10 times that amount — 190,000 centrifuges enriching uranium. With this massive capacity>>, Iran could make the fuel for an entire nuclear arsenal and this in a matter of weeks, once it makes that decision.
    At 35:32
    until Iran’s aggression ends. (APPLAUSE)…<<A better deal that won’t give Iran an easy path to the bomb. A better deal that Israel and its neighbors may not like, but with which we could live, literally. And no country…(APPLAUSE)… no country has a greater stake — no country has a greater stake than Israel in a good deal that peacefully removes this threat. Ladies and gentlemen, history has placed us at a fateful crossroads. We must now choose>> between two paths. One path leads to…

    • anneinpt says:

      You’re right, Eagle-Eyes. :-). I hadn’t noticed. I’ve been searching through different video uploads of the speech and I found the full version (or a fuller version) at the International Business Times.

      I’ve updated the video above. Thanks for noticing.

      In the new video the part about the 190,000 centrifuges is at 22 minutes or a bit after. The bit about a better deal is at around 33 minutes. Possibly the transcript isn’t 100% correct either.

  4. cba says:

    Re: Your last paragraph… Yes and yes.

  5. Reality says:

    What an amazing speech. During the day I was listening to various (leftist) pundits on the radio & all of them surprisingly had accepted the fact that Netanyahu was going to deliver the speech, & were even proud of him, the way he looks & talks. All papers say he offered nothing new. That isn’t true. But even if it was ,that wasn’t his aim. His aim was for once to tell America like it is (190,00 centrifuges) & to tell them that we will attack without your blessing if need be( especially as the USA know that Arab states are willing to give us airspace). He then showed the Congress what a spoiled child OBAMA is. He started & ended on a strictly Jewish note: Megillat Esther & Moses. i.e. these great personages were Jewish & took risks for the Jews & the Jews are still around today as a result . He then said G-d bless Israel & G-d bless America. i.e. that’s who we trust in ,& so do you!
    Brilliant.

    • anneinpt says:

      Absolutely. He hit every single right note. And most definitely Obama came off the worst here. He is such an idiot. He could have stood up and rebutted the speech, and then it would have turned into an interesting debate. But refusing to even attend just left the stage wide open (literally) for Bibi. That poor judgement on its own is a very bad sign in a President.

  6. Pete says:

    I agree with you that this was the “speech of a lifetime” for PM Netanyahu – and he pulled it off! He was eloquent, sincere, and passionate. His points were well reasoned. I did not think that the speech came across as a personal attack on Pres Obama, and PM Netanyahu went out of his way to thank America and Pres. Obama for assistance over the years. But YES, this is a real turning point in Israel-US relations.

    I disagree with the many perceptions .. that there is a “better deal” out there. There is no better deal with Tehran. The Iranians are milking this process for what they can get out of it. As soon as a tough negotiator shows up – they will walk. They can only be stopped now by military action – sad to say, but true. I would much prefer to see the Middle East remain at peace. But I happen to agree with PM Netanyahu’s assessment … the current pathway leads to a Middle East that is littered with “nuclear tripwires”. That is exactly what is going to happen, in my opinion.

    I was somewhat disappointed that PM Netanyahu did not give more specifics – in terms of knowledge of Iranian actions which clearly violate protocols. I suspect that Israel knows about some of them. Perhaps there are very good reasons why these cannot be revealed – but the public remains out-of-the loop in terms of real knowledge about the situation. I think the overall point was well made – treaties only have “teeth” if inspectors have the means to enforce the rules of the treaty, not simply to rubber-stamp them.

    PM Netanyahu appeared to set an uncompromising position with this speech. BUT will he really live up to this commitment before he leaves office, or will he also “kick the can down the road” by passing the problem to the next Israeli government? I guess we will find out.

    Pete, USA

    • anneinpt says:

      Pete, your remark:

      I was somewhat disappointed that PM Netanyahu did not give more specifics – in terms of knowledge of Iranian actions which clearly violate protocols…. Perhaps there are very good reasons why these cannot be revealed – but the public remains out-of-the loop in terms of real knowledge about the situation.

      This was because Kerry SPECIFICALLY threatened Bibi NOT to reveal ANY details of the current deal. He kept that side of the bargain, snidely saying “Google it” – implying that it’s all out there in the public domain if only anyone would bother looking for it.

      He certainly DID reveal plenty of examples of Iranian violations of “protocol”, or acts of war in any other language. What else would you have had Bibi say for Heaven’s sake?

      As to your final question – that is really the key question. He talks brilliantly but his actions are often very dithery. Remember how long he took to react to the Gaza missiles? And the endless “ceasefires”? I share your doubt.

    • Earl says:

      No need to “find out” anything. As I’ve noted here, my categorization of Obama has evolved from “dangerous naif” to “Manchurian candidate”. Obama is most assuredly playing to assist the mullahs- whether from reflexive anti-Americanism, or Judenhass, or his being a Muslim, or to a shallow, brittle personality manifesting itself in antipathy to anyone who shows him up as weak (ie., Bibi, Harper). Or any admixture thereof.

      The outcome is that while the Persians invented chess and are now playing Vulcan three-dimensional chess, the Americans are playing beer pong… and rather poorly, enabled by the execrable Lurch/Power/Rice troika of muppets.

  7. DavidinPT says:

    I think that Bibi finally clarified to the American people what most Israelis have already internalised – we have a hostile President in the White House. It is not Bibi’s fault, this is a strategy initiated by Obama from day one. It seems that Bibi finally decided that there is no point in beating around the bush any longer but one has to call a spade a spade. So when dealing with an overtly hostile incumbent, and when there may not be luxury of waiting out his term, the only path left is to defy him publicly in his home turf and expose to HIS people and their leaders what he is trying to do and its unavoidable results – a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and regional war before breakout. He has also warned America that if this deal goes ahead Israel will go it alone militarily, which will most probably drag in the USA, as the Iranians will no doubt retaliate against US interests and assets as well. So another aim of the speech was to put down a marker so he can say later on “Don’t say we didn’t warn you”.

    • anneinpt says:

      Yes, that was my impression too. But you can count on the hostile media – there and here – to conveniently forget Bibi’s warning when and if an attack comes.

      I also got the strong impression that Congress didn’t need much persuading about Obama’s malign intentions, certainly going by the number of standing ovations Bibi received.

      What a shame he can’t be brought down before his term is up. How much more damage is he capable of doing in the 2-3 years remaining?

  8. NormanF says:

    Bozo Herzog and Birdbrain Livni in refusing to accompany the Prime Minister to Washington have demonstrated to every one in Israel they’re unfit to lead the country when they treat a matter of national survival for Israel as a matter of partisan politics.

    They’ve shown that for them all that matters is winning an election, not what’s good for the State Of Israel. History will not judge them kindly.

  9. Pete says:

    PREVIOUS POST by Anne …

    “Our elections are on March 17th. This is just over 2 years since our last elections. In principle a government’s term is 4 years, but I can hardly remember when a gov’t last finished out its term. I think Bibi’s previous term was after almost 4 years.

    The trouble is our coalition system. We have so many small parties that all gov’ts are coalitions and they have become increasingly unstable, as we have seen right now. So the Knesset recently passed a law raising the threshold of entering the Knesset to at least 3% of the vote. This is still too small, we wanted at least 5% but it’s still better than the 1% or so that has been in practice till now.

    If he’s not re-elected then it will presumably be a Labour gov’t, now in its current reincarnation as “the Zionist Union” – Labour together with Tzippi Livni’s party. The question is who will they join in with. The extreme left? Possibly. Yesh Atid and the center? Maybe. The Arabs? Unlikely because the Arabs consider them too Zionist. Duh. This is Israel. What did they expect? The religious parties probably won’t go with Labour, so it’s not going to be easy for them to form a coalition.

    THESE WORDS … probably explain a lot.
    Pres Obama is very savvy to political calculations. VERY! Anybody who rises to the top of politics in Chicago knows how to work the political process with tremendous know-how. I am sure that Pres. Obama is well aware of everything you just said. Which means that Pres. Obama only has to wait 2 weeks, and hopefully the “thorn in his side” will be removed from the Israeli political system. Hence … it is very logical why the US Administration did not attend Bibi’s speech or try to deal with it. Hey are hoping that Bibi will be a “dead horse” in the election polls in Israel.

    And if your words are true, assuming Bibi is not re-elected, I am not sure that I see the consensus, or the decisiveness, for a new coalition to take action against Iran.

    Pete, USA

    • anneinpt says:

      I’m not asserting that Bibi won’t be re-elected. On the contrary I have the feeling (I hope I’m not being too optimistic here) that he will be re-elected.

      In which case, what will Obama do next? Besides make life difficult for Bibi?

      • Pete says:

        Anne … my guess is that the short term focus would dominate. All political systems have scandals. Israel has had its share too. If there is anything that touches Bibi, it will probably emerge in the next 2 weeks in your own media. This comment falls completely into the realm of ‘wild speculation”. But the next two weeks is where I would expect to see ‘exposees’. And that is not uncommon in the USA, also.

        Pete, USA

      • Aridog says:

        Obama will continue to dither and act the petulant child. Nothing new there. I hope we can survive the next two years under his weird leadership. As I’ve said before, I’d trade you Obamessiah for Bibi any day. Our man in the White House is plain off his rocker, so to speak. I am sure I could argue with Bibi on issues, both domestic and international, but I’d be talking to sane man…not a “community organizer” who knows nothing else. Said better, I hope we can both survive the era of Obama.

        • Aridog says:

          Need to add, although I really don’t understand it all, your system of multiple parties and coalitions, they do seem better than our system, at present, at least of pure opposition on theory not practice. The GOP here controls both houses and yet they let Obama run off with the jewels none the less. The man will never negotiate nor cooperate with those who do not worship him. THAT is scary.

          • anneinpt says:

            Funny that. In Israel we were fed up of our unstable government so a few years ago we changed to the Presidential system. It was a nightmare! It was reversed immediately, we had new elections and the good old chaotic coalition system was restored.

            Yes, the situation is scary but also outrageous. I hope both countries survive Obama the Awful.

  10. Brian Goldfarb says:

    Interesting reaction from The Times of Israel today (4 March, 20.45 GMT): http://www.timesofisrael.com/if-us-fails-pm-signals-sunni-arab-states-well-hold-the-line-against-iran/. The TofI spells it out: Bibi is telling the Sunni states (Egypt & Jordan primarily, but also Saudi Arabia) that Israel will hold the line even if the US doesn’t. Thus, these states can rely on Israel even if they can’t rely on the US. It’s rather like that brief screen shot in “Independence Day”, when the IAF pilots, not having been involved hitherto against the aliens, land elsewhere in the ME, with broad grins and loud “shaloms”, ready to go – to the evident astonishment of the local pilots.

    Pure Hollywood hokum, but a shot I love each time I watch the film.

    This is backed up by two other links: this from israel hayom – this I really like: “the Israelis will hold them while the Egyptians hit them http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=23857“. It actually goes along with El-Sisi’s latest statements re ISIS and Libya and the declaring by the Egyptians that Hamas is a terrorist organisation. El-Sisi knows which side his military bread is buttered.

    Finally, there\s this, from Bassam Tawli in The Gatestone Institute – http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/5297/king-abdullah-jordan-hero, which says it all. So there’s an axis running from the border of Libya to to Jordanian border with Syria. And guess whose Air Traffic Controllers are going to go deaf and blind when/if the IAF needs to overfly them on their way to Iran?

    Hope to write more on this soon, with Anne’s agreement.

    • anneinpt says:

      Great links Brian. They tie in with my next post about “Purim turnabouts” – the support for Israel from the Arab press.

      I would love for you to write a guest post on this subject!

  11. Ezeocha Post says:

    Reblogged this on The Ezeocha Post and commented:
    Watch, listen, and decide for yourself what you think the U.S. position on Iran should be. To continue the current course being taken by Secretary Kerry at the behest of President Obama or to take a more militaristic course.
    Make your thoughts known.
    Let the debate continue…

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