Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made his much ballyhooed speech before Congress today. Approximately 40 Democrats as well as the President and Vice-President were not in attendance. Netanyahu is facing reelection in about three weeks. This address seemed to be more campaigning rather than an address containing substance.
If Congress believed that they would hear something new, they were sorely disappointed. Netanyahu continued to claim that negotiations between the United States and Iran would only create a clear path for the construction of a nuclear weapon. However, he offered no alternatives.
Netanyahu spoke of the enduring relationship between the United States and Israel. He also apologized for the political disruption caused by his acceptance of John Boehner’s invitation.
Most of the Prime Minister’s speech involved Iran and its motives. He called its leaders evil, and anti-Semitic. Netanyahu said that his country would not back down from its defense priorities concerning Iran’s intentions to destroy Israel.
Both nations share a common goal; to prevent Iran from developing nuclear capability. The disagreement exists because each side supports different methods to stop Iran from building nuclear weapons. The President believes that negotiations must be the first effort, and if they fail, other measures will be taken. Netanyahu wants to increase the sanctions on Iran, and threaten the nation with other severe efforts if they do not comply.
Tehran also responded by calling Netanyahu’s speech ‘boring and repetitive,’ and merely echoed the hardline approach included in his campaign speeches.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi responded for Democrats after the speech. She said that she was very upset by the insulting tone of the Prime Minister. She said he challenged the intelligence of the United States. She labeled his speech as condescending.
Of course the Republican response was just the opposite, as expected. Hawks in the GOP praised Netanyahu’s speech saying that he ‘tied the whole matter together.’ Senator Bob Corker from Tennessee has already introduced a bill which would require congressional approval before any sanctions on Iran are lifted.
From John Boehner’s invitation to today’s speech the entire incident has been a fiasco. Not a single Democrat or Republican changed their minds regarding the matter of Iran and nuclear armament capability. It served a single purpose; it further divided an already dysfunctional government, intentionally or unintentionally.
Netanyahu’s acceptance of Boehner’s invitation and the speech itself reeked heavily of politics. The election to be held on March 17th is an attempt by Netanyahu to secure a 4th term. Although the press in the United States seems to believe that his reelection is inevitable, inside Israel there is some doubt.
The ‘Zionist Union’ believes they are leading in the polls by a small margin. Candidate Isaac Herzog is confident that ‘soft’ members of Netanyahu’s Likud Party could be swayed to join his movement.
The two men have opposite approaches in their campaign styles. Netanyahu is famous for flamboyance and theatrics such as today’s speech. Herzog acts more like a lawyer preparing for a major trial. He began his campaign as a movement to replace Netanyahu. It became ‘anyone but Bibi,’ which is the Prime Minister’s nickname in Israel.
Herzog confidently tells supporters that he will win.
By James Turnage