In 1967, Benjamin Netanyahu skipped his high school graduation in Pennsylvania to head off to Israel to help in the Six Day War. That same year Obama moved with his mother to Indonesia.
When Obama suggested that Israel return to the pre-1967 borders, described by Ambassador Eban, no right-winger, as “Auschwitz borders,” it was personal for Netanyahu. Like many Israeli teens, he had put his life on hold and risked it protecting those borders.
In the seventies, Obama was part of the Choom Gang and Netanyahu was sneaking up on Sabena Flight 571 dressed as an airline technician. Inside were four terrorists who had already separated Jewish passengers and taken them hostage. Two hijackers were killed. Netanyahu took a bullet in the arm.
The Prime Minister of Israel defended the operation in plain language. “When blackmail like this succeeds, it only leads to more blackmail,” she said.
Netanyahu’s speech in Congress was part of that same clash of worldviews. His high school teacher remembered him saying that his fellow students were living superficially and that there was “more to life than adolescent issues.” He came to Congress to cut through the issues of an administration that has never learned to get beyond its adolescence.
Obama’s people had taunted him with by calling him “chickens__t.” They had encouraged a boycott of his speech and accused him of insulting Obama. They had thrown out every possible distraction to the argument he came to make. Unable to argue with his facts, they played Mean Girls politics instead.
Benjamin Netanyahu had left high school behind to go to war. Now he was up against overgrown boys and girls who had never grown beyond high school. But even back then he had been, as a fellow student had described him, “The lone voice in the wilderness in support of the conservative line.”
“We were all against the war in Vietnam because we were kids,” she said. The kids are still against the war. Against all the wars; unless it’s their own wars. Netanyahu grew up fast. They never did.
Netanyahu could have played their game, but instead he began by thanking Obama. His message was not about personal attacks, but about the real threat that Iran poses to his country, to the region and to the world. He made that case decisively and effectively as few other leaders could.
He did it using plain language and obvious facts.
Netanyahu reminded Congress that the attempt to stop North Korea from going nuclear using inspectors failed. The deal would not mean a denuclearized Iran. “Not a single nuclear facility would be demolished,” he warned. And secret facilities would continue working outside the inspections regime.
He quoted the former head of IAEA’s inspections as saying, “If there’s no undeclared installation today in Iran, it will be the first time in 20 years that it doesn’t have one.”
And Netanyahu reminded everyone that Iran’s “peaceful” nuclear program would be backed by ongoing development of its intercontinental ballistic missile program that would not be touched under the deal.
He warned that the deal would leave Iran with a clear path to a nuclear endgame that would allow it to “make the fuel for an entire nuclear arsenal” in “a matter of weeks”.
Iran’s mission is to export Jihad around the world, he cautioned. It’s a terrorist state that has murdered Americans. While Obama claims to have Iran under control, it has seized control of an American ally in Yemen and is expanding its influence from Iraq to Syria.
Its newly moderate government “hangs gays, persecutes Christians, jails journalists.” It’s just as bad as ISIS, except that ISIS isn’t close to getting a nuclear bomb.
“America’s founding document promises life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Iran’s founding document pledges death, tyranny, and the pursuit of jihad,” he said. It was the type of clarity that he had brought to the difficult questions of life as a teenager. It is a clarity that still evades Obama today.
A measure of how thoroughly Netanyahu exposed Obama’s unseriousness can be found in Obama’s reply that before taking a position on a nuclear deal “it is very important not to be distracted by the nature of the Iranian regimes’ ambitions when it comes to territory or terrorism.”
For Netanyahu and for many in Congress, Iran’s terrorism is not a distraction; it is the main issue.
Obama insists in that same interview that “sanctions are not sufficient to prevent Iran from pursuing its nuclear ambitions.” And yet the entire premise of the deal he’s pushing is that the sanctions forced Iran to come to the negotiating table and agree to give up its race for the bomb. Sanctions can’t stop Iran from going nuclear, but negotiations using the sanctions as leverage can.
And to believe all this, we have to avoid being distracted by Iran’s invasions of other countries and support for terrorists.
It’s self-contradictory nonsense that wouldn’t pass muster in a high school paper in 1967. And yet it’s the unchallenged argument dominating the political class, foreign policy experts and the media today.
Netanyahu came to challenge the argument that Iran could be appeased out of getting the bomb. He had to do it because Obama and his media allies had ignored or shut up everyone who had made it before him. By making Netanyahu’s very appearance into the issue, they hoped to shut him down the way they had senators from their own party. They succeeded in making his appearance controversial, but that just meant that more people were listening when he finally broke through and spoke.
“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?” he asked.
It’s a question that the administration and its defenders do not want to answer because it strikes at the heart of their logic of appeasement.
The appeasers claim that the negotiations will stabilize the region. Instead Netanyahu demonstrated that they will lead to a region in which every major Muslim country has nukes and is ready to use them.
The appeasers insist that we need to ally with Iran to stop ISIS. Netanyahu brought clarity to that as well.
“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,” he warned. “They just disagree among themselves who will be the ruler of that empire,”
Netanyahu offered an alternative to another worthless nuclear agreement by focusing not only on Iran’s nuclear capability, but on its intentions. He asked the world to turn its attention to stopping Iran from attacking its neighbors and engaging in terrorism.
The things that Obama calls a distraction are for Benjamin Netanyahu the main point.
The former high school student who had been described as a “lone voice in the wilderness” closed his speech by saying, “Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand.”
Netanyahu knows something about standing alone. No Israeli politician has faced the continuing level of hate by the left that he has. The mockery and sneers directed at him by Obama’s media allies in these past weeks have been nothing. The teenager who had learned to stand by his values in a high school in the sixties and as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations in the eighties has let it all roll off him.
In war, Netanyahu had nearly drowned in the Suez Canal. In politics, he has kept his head above water. In Congress, he concluded by quoting Moses. “Be strong and resolute, neither fear nor dread them.”
It can refer to Iran or to the political mobs of the left who thought that smearing him would silence him.
Netanyahu understood what was at stake when Israel was fighting for its life in 1967. He did not let the comforts of suburbia blind him to the personal sacrifices that he had to make by going to Israel.
That is why he came to America now.