Netanyahu must do more than deliver a good speech

I was raised in a household that was profoundly affected by the Holocaust. The establishment of the state of Israel was a matter of enormous pride and hope to my family.

The scourge of anti-Semitism around the world, both back then in 1948 and today is not arguable except by a few fools and scoundrels who are what we call deniers. That is why we are so grateful to Steven Spielberg and his Shoah Foundation project, which documents the evil that is still among the very worst ever committed.

Just a few days ago, Benjamin Netanyahu offered a stirring speech to the U.S. Congress. The Israeli Prime Minister invoked every known skill in speech making. Among the most memorable moments of the speech was the introduction of author and survivor Eli Wiesel, who has done so much to remind the world of the terror of the Nazi regime.

He was met by tumultuous applause from the assembled Members of Congress. One doesn’t have to look farther than to the various Middle Eastern regimes that will settle for nothing less than the total obliteration of Israel. That, of course, is why Wiesel was there — to give reinforcement to Netanyahu’s words, “Never again!”

It just remains to look behind the speech at the politics of the situation. Clearly, Speaker of the House John Boehner had politics on his mind. I personally think he violated the United States Constitution, which gives the president the role as chief foreign policy official in this country.

In what could only be declared a disgusting and purposeful offense, Boehner didn’t even inform the president that he had issued the invitation. Democrats were put into an intolerable situation. The president ignored the speech. The vice president couldn’t make it. House Minority Leader Pelosi was unhappy with her members’ affirmative behavior during the speech.

It was at least a short-term victory for the Republican leader, but the speech by Netanyahu raises some disturbing questions. His central premise was that you couldn’t trust the Iranians; they wouldn’t keep their word and no assurances would change that.

Of course, we would remind everyone of the fact that the last thing the United States wanted was a true democracy in Iran. We literally installed the Shah when the Iranians had a democratically elected leader. The rise of the present system of Ayatollahs can be attributed to the rage that came directly from the Shah’s regime.

The impositions of worldwide sanctions have taken their toll. It is clear to me, at least, that the people of Iran have had enough. They elected a president who offered the people hope of getting out of the present intolerable situation.

The Iranian people have minds. They’re smart. Netanyahu maintains that once the deal that is being negotiated expires, the Iranians will build all the bombs they want.

It is clear to me that once the sanctions are lifted, a lesson will have been learned. The Iranians will not want to return to a time of severe deprivation. If anything, this speech has strengthened President Obama’s hand in the current negotiations. They know that he has a hostile political situation and if they want to lift the sanctions, they will have to make a politically acceptable deal.

Netanyahu, for his part, has clearly alienated this president. He says that he wants peace with the Palestinians yet he keeps building settlements. He has done little to make this critical peace possible.

Of course, we all know that there are militants who don’t want to see Israel survive but it is possible to make a peace in which Arab countries will be held responsible for keeping the peace. What other choice do we have?

It was a good speech but Netanyahu needs to move forward or the Israeli voters will have to make the change that is clearly needed now.

Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 3//7/15

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