“Israel is not what is wrong about the Middle East, Israel is what is right about the Middle East!” — Benjamin Netanyahu, May 24, 2011, before a joint session of the U.S. Congress.
While President Obama gave it the old college try while visiting a pub in Moneygall, Ireland by drinking Guinness and getting his monstrous black limousine stuck on a a steep driveway Benjamin Netanyahu was getting ready to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress.
Not since Winston Churchill addresses a joint session of Congress in January
Netanyahu moved the debate where it needs to go: to the threat posed by Iran, the sponsor of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Assad’s Syria, a jihadi regime working overtime to acquire nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them.
He then went on to emphasize that he and other Israelis are willing to accept a Palestinian state. It is acceptance of a Jewish state by Palestinians and other Arabs that is lacking. In such a circumstance, how can there be progress toward peace? As Netanyahu said, to loud applause (and with President Obama clearly in mind), peace cannot be imposed. It must be negotiated. And Israel does not have a negotiating partner. Hamas remains committed to Israel’s extermination. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas will not even sit down and talk with Israelis face to face.
This speech had more truth in it than Congress has heard in years. Netanyahu stood up, just as he promised, and told the unvarnished truth about what it will take to make peace with the Palestinians.
Early in the speech he established that Israel is not only a true democracy, but that all of the Arabs that live in Israel enjoy real democratic rights, which is unparalleled in the Middle East. He went on to say with vigor:
“Israel is not what is wrong about the Middle East, Israel is what is right about the Middle East!”
Here are some of the Highlights from Netanyahu’s speech.
On Israel’s unique standing in the Middle East:
“In an unstable Middle East, Israel is the one anchor of stability. In a region of shifting alliances, Israel is America’s unwavering ally. Israel has always been pro-American. Israel will always be pro-American.”
“My friends, you don’t have to — you don’t need to do nation- building in Israel. We’re already built. You don’t need to export democracy to Israel. We’ve already got it. And you don’t need to send American troops to Israel. We defend ourselves.”
“In a region where women are stoned, gays are hanged, Christians are persecuted, Israel stands out. It is different.”
“Israel is not what is wrong about the Middle East. Israel is what is right about the Middle East.”
On the ‘Arab Spring’ revolutions:
“A great convulsion is shaking the earth from the Khyber Pass to the Straits of Gibraltar… The tremors have shattered states. They’ve toppled governments. And we can all see that the ground is still shifting.”
“Now, this historic moment holds the promise of a new dawn of freedom and opportunity. There are millions of young people out there who are determined to change their future. We all look at them. They muster courage. They risk their lives. They demand dignity. They desire liberty. These extraordinary scenes in Tunis, in Cairo, evoke those of Berlin and Prague in 1989. We must also remember that those hopes could be snuffed out, as they were in Tehran in 1979. You remember what happened then.”
“The brief democratic spring in Tehran was cut short by a ferocious and unforgiving tyranny. And it’s this same tyranny that smothered Lebanon’s democratic Cedar Revolution and inflicted on that long- suffering country the medieval rule of Hezbollah.”
“So today the Middle East stands at a fateful crossroads. And like all of you, I pray that the peoples of the region choose the path less traveled, the path of liberty.”
On being interrupted by a young female Code Pink protester yelling “No more occupation and Israeli war crimes!”
“You know, I take it as a badge of honor, and so should you, that in our free societies you can now protest. You can’t have these protests in the farcical parliaments in Tehran or in Tripoli. This is real democracy.”
“So as we share the hopes of these young people throughout the Middle East and Iran, that they’ll be able to do what that young woman just did — I think she’s young; I couldn’t see quite that far.”
On the Iranian nuclear threat:
“When I last stood here, I spoke of the consequences of Iran developing nuclear weapons. Now time is running out. The hinge of history may soon turn, for the greatest danger of all could soon be upon us: a militant Islamic regime armed with nuclear weapons.”
“Militant Islam threatens the world. It threatens Islam.”
“A nuclear-armed Iran would ignite a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. It would give terrorists a nuclear umbrella. It would make the nightmare of nuclear terrorism a clear and present danger throughout the world.”
“See, I want you to understand what this means, because if we don’t stop it, it’s coming. They could put a bomb anywhere. They could put it in a missile; they’re working on missiles that could reach this city. They could put it on a — on a ship inside a container; could reach every port. They could eventually put it in a suitcase or in a subway.”
“Now, the threat to my country cannot be overstated. Those who dismiss it are sticking their heads on the stand. Less than seven decades after 6 million Jews were murdered, Iran’s leaders deny the Holocaust of the Jewish people while calling for the annihilation of the Jewish state. Leaders who spew such venom should be banned from every respectable forum on the planet.”
On confronting that threat:
“The ayatollah regime briefly suspended its nuclear program only once, in 2003, when it feared the possibility of military action. In that same year, Moammar Gadhafi gave up his nuclear weapons program, and for the same reason. The more Iran believes that all options are on the table, the less the chance of confrontation. And this is why I ask you to continue to send an unequivocal message that America will never permit Iran to develop nuclear weapons.”
On the nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:
“So far, the Palestinians have been unwilling to accept a Palestinian state if it meant accepting a Jewish state alongside it.”
“Our conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state; it’s always been about the existence of the Jewish state. This is what this conflict is about.”
“President Abbas must do what I have done. I stood before my people — and I told you, it wasn’t easy for me — I stood before my people and I said, “I will accept a Palestinian state.” It’s time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say, “I will accept a Jewish state.”
“Those six words will change history. They’ll make it clear to the Palestinians that this conflict must come to an end; that they’re not building a Palestinian state to continue the conflict with Israel, but to end it.”
“And those six words will convince the people of Israel that they have a true partner for peace.”
On the demographic/geographic conditions for peace:
“In Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers. The Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside the borders of Israel.”
“The border will be different than the one that existed on June 4th, 1967. Israel will not return to the indefensible boundaries of 1967.”
“Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel.”
“The Palestinian attempt to impose a settlement through the United Nations will not bring peace. It should be forcefully opposed by all those who want to see this conflict end. I appreciate the president’s clear position on these — on this issue.”
“Peace cannot be imposed. It must be negotiated.”
“Israel is prepared to sit down today and negotiate peace with the Palestinian Authority. I believe we can fashion a brilliant future for our children. But Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by the Palestinian version of al-Qaeda. That we will not do.”
“So I say to President Abbas: Tear up your pact with Hamas! Sit down and negotiate. Make peace with the Jewish state. And if you do, I promise you this: Israel will not be the last country to welcome a Palestinian state as a new member of the United Nations; it will be the first to do so.”
On the United States’ special role in the world:
“My friends, the momentous trials over the last century and the unfolding events of this century attest to the decisive role of the United States in defending peace and advancing freedom. Providence entrusted the United States to be the guardian of liberty. All people who cherish freedom owe a profound debt of gratitude to your great nation. Among the most grateful nations is my nation, the people of Israel, who have fought for their liberty and survival against impossible odds in ancient and modern times alike. I speak on behalf of the Jewish people and the Jewish state when I say to you, representatives of America: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for your unwavering support for Israel. Thank you for ensuring that the flame of freedom burns bright throughout the world.”
You can read the full text and watch the complete video of Netanyahu’s speech by clicking here. When you watch the speech note that when Bibi says that “Jerusalem must never again be divided” Speaker Boehner is clapping and Biden's hands remaining together on the surface in front of him. I imagine Biden's response mirrors that of the Administration.
I close this post with a personal anecdote about Bibi Netanyahu. Netanyahu was a captain in the IDF before going on to earn his M.S. degree from the MIT Sloan School of Management in 1977, and studying political science at Harvard University. While in the IDF he served with my partner in the civil engineering firm I was part owner of. My partner, a Sabra and citizen of the U.S. related this story to me.
The story takes place during one night when my partner was leading a patrol along the border with Jordan to detect any Palestinian terrorist infiltration. It was a cold, dark night and the patrol stopped to get warm and drink some hot tea. While they were resting and enjoying their tea and snack they were jumped by several men dressed in black and wearing balaclavas. The assaulting men pointed their assault rifles at them and told them to get on the ground. They then informed the men of my partner’s patrol they were all dead. Once the patrol was lying prone on the attackers removed their balaclavas and it was Bibi Netanyahu leading a crack anti-terrorist team to check on the performance of the patrol. After a thorough dressing down by Netanyahu the patrol was allowed to get up and continue their nightly rounds with a greater sense of duty and security. Netanyahu understood the threat from the PLO terrorists and he wanted to make sure the men and women of the IDF did.
Netanyahu did not only talk the talk, he walked the walk.