I have to say that I waited with eagerness to see Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, address Congress. His address was unusual, of course, because the invitation to speak to Congress had come from Speaker of the House John Boehner, without any coordination or even notification of the White House.
Such a move by Boehner would seem unusual and perhaps even inappropriate were it not for the fact that this administration has been very dismissing of Israel and Israel's concerns. Sometimes the White House even seems antagonist toward our most important Middle Eastern ally.
The Speaker of the House has every right to invite someone to address Congress and there is no requirement that the White House approve or be involved in any way. Given the climate of the Middle East right now and the stakes involved in the talks regarding Iran's nuclear capability, perhaps Boehner thought the American people would benefit from hearing the perspective of Israel, since our own media was not reporting it and our president seemed uninterested, at best. I applaud Beohner's decision.
Netanyahu began his address very graciously. He thanked John Boehner and all of the other Congressional leaders, calling them by name as well as title. He greeted personally Harry Reid who had been in a recent accident, "It's good to see you back on your feet. I guess it's true what they say, you can't keep a good man down."
He went on to say that he was humbled to speak to the most important legislative body in the world, the U.S. Congress, thanking both democrats and republicans "for your common support for Israel, year after year, decade after decade.."
"Because America and Israel, we share a common destiny, the destiny of promised lands that cherish freedom and offer hope. Israel is grateful for the support of America's presidents, from Harry Truman to Barack Obama."
Netanyahu then said how Israel appreciates all that Barack Obama has done for Israel and cited a number of examples.
"Thank you, America," he said, "Thank you for everything you've done for Israel."
What a gracious and humble beginning, I thought. Here is a true statesman.
Netanyahu then shifted to the topic of Iran. He mentioned that Ayattollah Khamenei "tweets in English that Israel must be destroyed."
He went on, "The people of Iran are very talented people. They're heirs to one of the world's great civilizations. But in 1979, they were hijacked by religious zealots who imposed on them immediately a dark and brutal dictatorship." (So wise and intelligent to distinguish between the Iranian leaders and the Iranian people.)
This year, he said, Iran has a new Constitution in which the revolutionary guards are directed to fulfill the ideological mission of jihad. America's founding promises life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, he explained, while Iran's pledges death, tyranny, and the pursuit of death.
Netanyahu then pointed out what much of the U.S. media passed over quite quickly. Just last week Iran carried out a military exercise in which a mock U.S. aircraft carrier was blown up. This during the negotiations regarding their nuclear capability. (Did the administration think nothing of this??)
Then the prime minister listed a number of atrocities and attacks committed by Iran against Americans and described Iran's global terror network. "We must all stand together to stop Iran's march of conquest, subjugation, and terror," he said giving numerous additional examples.
Then came what I thought was a very significant point and one that perhaps most Americans (myself included) did not understand. Iran and ISIS are fighting for the same thing-- militant Islam "They just disagree among themselves who will be the ruler of that empire."
He went on, "So when it comes to Iran and ISIS, the enemy of your enemy is your enemy.... the greatest dangers facing our world is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons."
"...the deal now being negotiated..would all but guarantee that Iran gets those weapons, lots of them."
Netanyahu then explained the problems he has with the current deal on the table. He said it gives two major concessions to Iran. First, it leaves Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure with a short break-out time to a bomb. Yes, there will be inspections, "But here's the problem. You see inspectors document violations, they don't stop them." And Iran has repeatedly deceived inspectors.
Secondly, "...virtually all the restrictions on Iran's nuclear program will automatically expire in about a decade....And their Intercontinental Ballistic Missile program is not part of the deal, and so far, Iran refuses to even put it on the negotiating table." This provides the mean to deliver nuclear weapons to any part of the world, including the U.S.
(Yes, you read that right. Iran will have the ability to launch a nuclear missile to the U.S. The country that shouts "Death to America" will have the capability to attack us with nuclear weapons.)
Netanyahu did say that "If Iran wants to be treated like a normal country, let it act like a normal country." All restrictions on Iran's weaponry could be lifted if it would stop it's aggression against its neighbors in the Middle East, stop supporting terrorism around the world, and stop threatening to annihilate Israel.
(Is that so much to ask? Really.)
He then introduced Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel and said, "But I can guarantee you this, the days when the Jewish people remained passive in the face of genocidal enemies, those days are over."
"Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand. I know that America stands with Israel...You stand with Israel because you know that the story of Israel is not only the story of the Jewish people but of the human spirit that refuses again and again to succumb to history's horrors."
Netanyahu then pointed out the image of Moses on the wall and quoted Moses, "Be strong and resolute, neither fear nor dread them."
The prime minister received a number of well deserved standing ovations and many interruptions of applause.
I thought to myself that here was a real statesman, a true leader, a man who recognizes good and evil and has the courage to call others to stand up for the good. Would that our own president possessed such qualities.