Netanyahu, Truth Teller

Prime Minister Netanyahu tells Congress what it needs to hear.

This week, something happened in Congress which takes place only once in a blue moon: Someone stood up to address the assembly and told the unvarnished, unpleasant truth.  It's a shame and a disgrace that it had to be done by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu because no American leader was willing to.

Of course, as Mr. Churchill said, "In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies."  Make no mistake about it - unlike our leaders, Mr. Netanyahu knows full well that a war is exactly what he, his country, and indeed the entire Western world are embroiled in.

So, in order to maintain a chance of winning the war, he protected his truth with a Big Lie:

We appreciate all that President Obama has done for Israel.

Yes, it's true that, as the Prime Minister pointed out, Mr. Obama dispatched help in fighting a forest fire and similar humanitarian efforts.  Fair enough, and credit should be given where it's due, but what about the recent revelation that Mr. Obama threatened to shoot down Israeli planes if they attacked Iran's nuclear program?  The White House has denied this report - well, they would, wouldn't they?

We'll probably never know the real story, but it's not surprising that Mr. Netanyahu didn't even mention the charge, and it is even more striking that the story is so believable.  Nobody would ever in a million years have believed such a thing of Reagan, Bush, Clinton, or even Jimmy Carter; Eisenhower, maybe, but even that's a stretch.

It is a fact that Mr. Obama has been exactly as much a friend to Israel as his own party forces him to be, and not one iota more.  Fortunately, as Mr. Netanyahu correctly pointed out:

I know that no matter on which side of the aisle you sit, you stand with Israel.  The remarkable alliance between Israel and the United States has always been above politics. It must always remain above politics.

For years that's been true, and it's still largely true today: there are a sizable number of Democrats who staunchly support the nation of Israel, joined by the overwhelming majority of Republicans.  Being a Democrat most definitely does not automatically mean being an anti-Semite, or even anti-Israel.  As Mr. Netanyahu reminded us, much of the most helpful American military support of Israel came at the bipartisan behest of Congress.

But as Mr. Obama himself so vividly illustrates, whereas by no means are all Democrats enemies of Israel or even a majority of them, nearly everyone in the United States who is against Israel is a Democrat.

Of course, they would never admit it - being against Israel, that is.  The infamous leftist shell organization J Street claims to be one of the staunchest friends of Israel because they want to force them into doing something they don't want to do that would be good for them, namely make peace with the Muslims sworn to wipe them off the face of the earth.

Existential Enemies

Which brings us to the core truth Mr. Netanyahu portrayed to Congress:

Today the Jewish people face another attempt by yet another Persian potentate to destroy us. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei spews the oldest hatred, the oldest hatred of anti-Semitism with the newest technology. He tweets that Israel must be annihilated — he tweets. You know, in Iran, there isn’t exactly free Internet. But he tweets in English that Israel must be destroyed.

For those who believe that Iran threatens the Jewish state, but not the Jewish people, listen to Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, Iran’s chief terrorist proxy. He said: "If all the Jews gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of chasing them down around the world."

You must make a choice here.  You can believe that Mr. Khamenei and Mr. Nasrallah are just blowing smoke for domestic consumption.  It could have been argued that's what Soviet premier Nikita Krushchev was doing when he banged his shoe on the podium and shouted to the West, "We will bury you!"

America, however, wisely assumed he meant what he said and beefed up our nuclear arsenal.  The Russians soon realized that, if they attempted to bury America, America would make sure they ended up right alongside us six feet under.  The Cuban Missile Crisis proved that, when it came right down to it, even the Communists weren't willing to start a full-scale nuclear war.

But then, both the United States and the old USSR were wide-ranging continental powers.  It would be extremely difficult to literally obliterate both countries from sea to shining sea, though of course any serious nuclear exchange would be a passable imitation of Armageddon.

Israel is barely one notch above a microstate.  You can drive from one side to the other in an hour or so, and from top to bottom in a few hours.  Israel is not even four times the size of Delaware, our smallest state, and there are individual Texans who own ranches which are larger than the entire country.

To a tiny place like that, a nuclear threat is not just frightening, it's The End of The World.  Iran doesn't have to build ten thousand ICBMs like the Russians had.  A dozen or so bombs and a half-dozen planes to carry them would be more than adequate to turn all Israel into glass, and fewer bombs would suffice to destroy Israel as a functioning society.

If being a nation means anything at all, it necessarily has to mean that a nation has an absolute right to defend itself.  Israel faces, and has faced for its entire existence, a serious, well-documented, amply proven threat to any existence as an independent country at all.

Now, so do other countries in the world - the Baltic states, the Poles, the Ukraine, Georgia, and several of the usual suspects in Africa.  America is allies with some but not all.  We are not the world's policeman; we are under no general obligation to defend any country which comes begging.

In the case of Israel, as with the Baltic States, there's more to it than that: we have treaty obligations.  Of course a treaty is nothing more than "a scrap of paper," but do we really want to emulate Adolf Hitler the way Mr. Khamenei does?

War Is Interested In You

In the 1940s, many Americans thought that Europe's problems could stay in Europe and America should just sit tight protected by our oceans.  After the tribulations of the Great Depression, nobody wanted to join a major war.  So we sat, and sat, and sat until one fine December morning, the Japanese Navy proved the folly of that approach.

We are in the same situation today: The evil political forces of Islam will not be content with destroying Israel and taking over the Middle East.  They truly believe that it is Allah's divine will for them to rule the world.

Don’t be fooled. The battle between Iran and ISIS doesn’t turn Iran into a friend of America.

Iran and ISIS are competing for the crown of militant Islam. One calls itself the Islamic Republic. The other calls itself the Islamic State. Both want to impose a militant Islamic empire first on the region and then on the entire world. They just disagree among themselves who will be the ruler of that empire.

In this deadly game of thrones, there’s no place for America or for Israel, no peace for Christians, Jews or Muslims who don’t share the Islamist medieval creed, no rights for women, no freedom for anyone. So when it comes to Iran and ISIS, the enemy of your enemy is your enemy.

It's hard to imagine how dead your soul must be to be able to look at the videos of ISIS barbarians gleefully burning and beheading Christians, and of Iran's uniformed barbarians doing the same, and not recognize the pure evil threat that they represent.  Yet somehow Mr. Obama persists in his delusion that they are reasonable people who, in the infamous words of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, we can "do business" with.

Like Mr. Chamberlain, Mr. Obama probably feels that his enemy likes him.  Like Mr. Chamberlain, Mr. Obama is perfectly correct: his enemy does like him and is very glad to have him in the position he holds, because his enemy can push him around and take whatever he wants at minimum cost.

Mr. Netanyahu, not so much.  Which is why Mr. Netanyahu and his fellow Israelis are suffused with such an outpouring of hatred the world around.

Time To Choose Sides

Is Israel a perfect place?  No, it is not.  But an American could live in the state of Israel with perfect comfort and safety and a fair degree of familiarity and freedom because Israeli society is based on similar though not identical principles.

Is that true of anywhere in the Muslim world?  No - even the apparently modern cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi have a seriously dark underbelly of repression and violence for anyone who is not conspicuously rich.  America believes that "all men are created equal," a concept as alien to Islamic philosophy as the Village People.

My long-time friend, John Kerry, Secretary of State, confirmed last week that Iran could legitimately possess that massive centrifuge capacity when the deal expires.

Now I want you to think about that. The foremost sponsor of global terrorism could be weeks away from having enough enriched uranium for an entire arsenal of nuclear weapons and this with full international legitimacy.

And by the way, if Iran’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile program is not part of the deal, and so far, Iran refuses to even put it on the negotiating table. Well, Iran could have the means to deliver that nuclear arsenal to the far-reach corners of the Earth, including to every part of the United States.

So while it is a legitimate question to ask why America should support Israel, it is preposterous to claim that Iran poses no threat to us all the way over here.  Iran has never shown any hesitation about murdering Americans anywhere in the world that it can reach.  With nuclear weapons and missiles, its reach covers the entire world.

Would Iran be less aggressive when sanctions are removed and its economy is stronger? If Iran is gobbling up four countries right now while it’s under sanctions, how many more countries will Iran devour when sanctions are lifted? Would Iran fund less terrorism when it has mountains of cash with which to fund more terrorism?

Why should Iran’s radical regime change for the better when it can enjoy the best of both worlds: aggression abroad, prosperity at home?

If history teaches one thing, it's that aggressors are only stopped by deadly force.

Suppose you were the secretary of defense for Israel.  Would you believe that the Ayatollahs were kidding when they said they planned to nuke Israel out of existence?  Or would you regard a nuclear Iran as a credible existential threat?

Suppose that you were serious when you took your oath of office.  Should you stand idly by while Mr. Obama agrees to lift sanctions in return for nothing much?  Or should you take action to defend your grandchildren?

Mr. Netanyahu is right to try to persuade the US to use its clout to stop the bomb - after all, we do have a long history of partnership.  But if he fails, if America permits Mr. Obama to sell us all down the river by allowing Iran to go nuclear, it will be up to Binyamin Netanyahu alone to decide the fate of his country - a country for which, unlike our president, he has personally risked his life in combat. What will he do?  What should he do?

He knows how well we fulfilled our treaty obligations to defend the Ukraine. How can he trust us at all?

The Prime Minister has done us the profound courtesy of pointing out that we're in the same crosshairs as he is.  It's clear that Israel is committed to doing whatever has to be done for their nation to survive.

Are we?

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Foreign Affairs.
Reader Comments

The New York Times is all upset that Mr. N. disagrees with the O. I guess they think Iran can be trusted to keep a treaty?

March 4, 2015 6:05 PM

Thank you, for the most concise,succinct*, defensible exploration of Mr Netanyahu's speech I have read to date. The contrast between the Churchillian majesty of this warrior-leader and the plastic sound-bytes of our oẃn leader could not be more marked.

I find myself wishing that Mrs. Netanyahu-Pere had been prescient enough to have gone into labor in the USA. What a President Bibi would_have been!

* And yes, these words, though close in meaning, are, indeed, distinct.

March 7, 2015 9:17 PM
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