Netanyahu Shines in Speech to Congress

The Israeli prime minister injects Congress with much-needed moral clarity on the realities of the Middle East.

The most riveting moment of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s much-applauded address to Congress on Tuesday was his declaration that “the hinge of history may soon turn, for the greatest danger of all could soon be upon us: a militant Islamic regime armed with nuclear weapons.” He was speaking of Iran, but then he broadened his scope, adding: “Militant Islam threatens the world. It threatens Islam.”

“It threatens Islam” -- i.e., the real Islam is a Religion of Peace that has been hijacked by a tiny minority of extremists. This unreality is disappointing to see, and will not bode well for Israel insofar as it continues to translate into policy. Nonetheless, even to acknowledge that the threat has any Islamic character at all is a huge advance over Obama, George W. Bush, David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, et al.

For it was not until four years after 9/11, in October 2005, that Bush pointed out that the terrorists’ attacks “serve a clear and focused ideology, a set of beliefs and goals that are evil, but not insane. Some call this evil Islamic radicalism; others, militant Jihadism; still others, Islamo-fascism.” He had never used such terminology before that, generally limiting himself to calling the enemy “terrorists” and “evildoers” — names so general that they can apply to multitudes besides those who are actually warring against the United States today — and hardly ever used it after that.

Obama has been even less realistic. He has again and again reached out to the Islamic world, assuring Muslim countries of his respect for Islam. Again and again he has been rudely rebuffed, but that has not stopped him from making the attempt again and again. After the death of Osama bin Laden, he claimed that Osama was “not a Muslim leader, but a mass murderer of Muslims.” Then he made sure to give this mass murderer of Muslims a solemn Islamic funeral.

John O. Brennan, Obama’s top counterterrorism advisor, summed up the Obama administration’s warmly positive stance toward Islam in an August 2009 address: “Nor does President Obama see this challenge as a fight against `jihadists.' Describing terrorists in this way--using a legitimate term, `jihad,’ meaning to purify oneself or to wage a holy struggle for a moral goal--risks giving these murderers the religious legitimacy they desperately seek but in no way deserve. Worse, it risks reinforcing the idea that the United States is somehow at war with Islam itself. And this is why President Obama has confronted this perception directly and forcefully in his speeches to Muslim audiences, declaring that America is not and never will be at war with Islam.”

That may be so, but Netanyahu’s statement is true as well – at least the first part of it: “Militant Islam threatens the world.” America is not and never will be at war with Islam, but a significant element of Islam is at war with America, Israel, and the rest of the free world – and Netanyahu is much more realistic about that fact than any other Western leader.

Nor is that the extent of his realism. In his address to Congress, he spoke other truths that Barack Obama apparently would prefer to ignore, including a stout defense of his country: “In an unstable Middle East, Israel is the one anchor of stability. In a region of shifting alliances, Israel is America's unwavering ally….My friends, you don't have to -- you don't need to do nation-building in Israel. We're already built. You don't need to export democracy to Israel. We've already got it. And you don't need to send American troops to Israel. We defend ourselves.”

He even contrasted Israeli freedom to the repression of Sharia regimes: “Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, only Israel's Arab citizens enjoy real democratic rights. Now, I want you to stop for a second and think about that. Of those 300 million Arabs, less than one-half of 1 percent are truly free, and they're all citizens of Israel.”

Refreshing also was Netanyahu’s rejection of the Palestinian propaganda line, which Obama and so many other Western leaders have echoed, that Israel’s presence in the West Bank constitutes an illegal “occupation”: “And you have to understand this,” he told Congress: “In Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers. We're not the British in India. We're not the Belgians in the Congo. This is the land of our forefathers, the land of Israel, to which Abraham brought the idea of one god, where David set out to confront Goliath, and where Isaiah saw his vision of eternal peace. No distortion of history -- and boy am I reading a lot of distortions of history lately, old and new -- no distortion of history could deny the 4,000-year-old bond between the Jewish people and the Jewish land.”

And he spoke the truth that Obama mentioned only in passing in his speech last week calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state: “our conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state; it's always been about the existence of the Jewish state. This is what this conflict is about….In recent years, the Palestinians twice refused generous offers by Israeli prime ministers to establish a Palestinian state on virtually all the territory won by Israel in the Six Day War. They were simply unwilling to end the conflict. And I regret to say this: They continue to educate their children to hate. They continue to name public squares after terrorists. And worst of all, they continue to perpetuate the fantasy that Israel will one day be flooded by the descendants of Palestinian refugees. My friends, this must come to an end.”

Confronting directly the common mainstream media spin, emanating from Palestinian propaganda, that Israel is the aggressor and the Palestinians are the victims, he challenged Mahmoud Abbas to reverse his recent accord with Hamas and pursue a genuine path to peace. Echoing Reagan, Netanyahu declared: “So I say to President Abbas: Tear up your pact with Hamas! Sit down and negotiate. Make peace with the Jewish State. And if you do, I promise you this: Israel will not be the last country to welcome a Palestinian state as a new member of the United Nations; it will be the first to do so.”

It is a challenge that will not be accepted, but in the very act of making it, Netanyahu showed which side is the real force for peace, and which side is – in accord with the jihad doctrine – continuing to pursue murder and bloodshed.

He also showed who among his audience (both in Congress and in the Western world in general) were blinkered panderers and appeasers falling prey to jihadist propaganda, and who was the statesman.