Yes, prime minister
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his team were working hard to refine and edit the speech he had prepared to present to AIPAC’s annual conference in Washington on Monday evening. Though the text had been ready prior to Netanyahu’s arrival in the United States, it was understood that it was not the final draft. This is because the prime minister had to wait to hear U.S. President Barack Obama’s address – as well as meet with the American leader face-to-face – before finalizing his own public statements.
Meanwhile, speculation ran rampant about whether Obama was going to give Netanyahu the usual wrist-slap and tongue-lashing – this time about Iran, rather than the Palestinians – or merely tell him in no uncertain terms that it would be in everyone’s best interest to give Tehran another chance to relinquish its nuclear ambitions and program.
For weeks, the Hebrew press has been rife with stories about Netanyahu’s imminent military operation against Iran’s nuclear facilities. It was only natural, then, for the pundits to be whipping out predictions about what the prime minister was going to say first to Obama and then to the 14,000-strong AIPAC audience.
But most of the speculation has been on whether Israel is actually going to attack, and if so, whether Netanyahu will have to go it alone, without U.S. help. Additional discussion has been devoted to Israel’s technical abilities to pull off such a complex and dangerous mission. And since the “experts” keep contradicting one another, it is well nigh impossible to determine whom to believe. As a result, those in favor of Netanyahu’s bombing Iran continue to pray for it, and those opposed remain steadfast in their conviction that it would be a disaster.
When Netanyahu inally did step up to the podium, then, the tension in the air was almost as palpable as the applause was deafening. Though the packed house of mostly Jews had no small number of liberal Obama supporters, they nevertheless believe that Ahmadinejad’s mullah-led regime means business when it boasts about its intention to wipe Israel off the map. (That it simultaneously claims to be developing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes doesn’t fool them one bit. And though Obama keeps asserting that Iran must not be allowed to go past the point of no return, he does seem to be more concerned with Israeli settlements than with Islamist nukes.)
But what turned out to be most interesting about Netanyahu’s speech was not that it revealed the answer to the question on everyone’s mind.
True, the prime minister iterated and reiterated that he, as the leader of the Jewish state, could not and would not allow his people to “live in the shadow of annihilation.”
He also invoked World War II, when the United States was more worried about the repercussions of bombing Auschwitz – because it would serve only to further antagonize the Nazis. But “2012 is not 1944,” he said, referring to the fact that now the Jewish People have a state and an army, and will no longer be subject to the genocidal whims of anti-Semites.
And yes, he sent a message of warning that he would not “wait much longer.”
However, what became evident was that Netanyahu was not directing his threats at the regime in Tehran. Rather, he was making an appeal to American Jews of all political stripes -- and to the U.S. Congress, whom he made a point of applauding for their unwavering loyalty -- to be on his side if and when he takes military action.
Though he paid the necessary lip service to the big lie that he and Obama are on the same page when it comes to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, he was in effect going around the American president’s back to beg for approval among the rest of the conference attendees. Without that, he knows, he will have a much harder time undertaking the risky, gargantuan task of making the Free World safe from a nuclear global jihad that would make even the Holocaust pale in comparison.
Ironically, tackling the West’s gravest threat since Hitler seems to be less daunting to the Israeli war hero and terrorism expert than having to kowtow to the man in the White House who has the power to clip his wings in the name of “diplomacy.”
Ruthie Blum is a former senior editor and columnist at The Jerusalem Post. Her book on the radicalization of the Middle East will be published by RVP Press in the spring.