|Bibi in combat gear, when in his 20s|
Rae Abileah, the CodePink activist who heckled Netanyahu's speech before Congess yesterday, prompted this well-justified observation from the Israeli Prime Minister:
“You know, I take it as a badge of honour, and so should you, that in our free societies you can have protests. You can’t have these protests in the farcical parliaments in Tehran or Tripoli."
The reaction was more thunderous applause, of the kind that frequently punctuated his speech, along with many standing ovations from his listeners.
And no wonder. Netanyahu is a superb speaker, an attractive presence, and his deep sense of history, and of purpose, is palpable.
He made numerous profoundly moving and inspiring statements.
"In an unstable Middle East, Israel is the one anchor of stability. In a region of shifting alliances, Israel is America’s unwavering ally. Israel has always been pro-American. Israel will always be pro-American.
You don’t need to export democracy to Israel. We’ve already got it. You don’t need to send American troops to defend Israel. We defend ourselves. You’ve been very generous in giving us tools to do the job of defending Israel on our own....
Support for Israel’s security is a wise investment in our common future. For an epic battle is now unfolding in the Middle East, between tyranny and freedom. A great convulsion is shaking the earth from the Khyber Pass to the Straits of Gibraltar. The tremors have shattered states and toppled governments. And we can all see that the ground is still shifting. Now this historic moment holds the promise of a new dawn of freedom and opportunity. Millions of young people are determined to change their future. We all look at them. They muster courage. They risk their lives. They demand dignity. They desire liberty....
So today, the Middle East stands at a fateful crossroads. Like all of you, I pray that the peoples of the region choose the path less traveled, the path of liberty. No one knows what this path consists of better than you. This path is not paved by elections alone. It is paved when governments permit protests in town squares, when limits are placed on the powers of rulers, when judges are beholden to laws and not men, and when human rights cannot be crushed by tribal loyalties or mob rule.
Israel has always embraced this path, in the Middle East has long rejected it. In a region where women are stoned, gays are hanged, Christians are persecuted, Israel stands out. It is different.
.... We have a free press, independent courts, an open economy, rambunctious parliamentary debates....
Courageous Arab protesters, are now struggling to secure these very same rights for their peoples, for their societies. We're proud that over one million Arab citizens of Israel have been enjoying these rights for decades. Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, only Israel’s Arab citizens enjoy real democratic rights. I want you to stop for a second and think about that. Of those 300 million Arabs, less than one-half of one-percent are truly free, and they're all citizens of Israel!
This startling fact reveals a basic truth: Israel is not what is wrong about the Middle East. Israel is what is right about the Middle East....
Israel fully supports the desire of Arab peoples in our region to live freely. We long for the day when Israel will be one of many real democracies in the Middle East.
Fifteen years ago, I stood at this very podium, and said that democracy must start to take root in the Arab World. Well, it's begun to take root. This beginning holds the promise of a brilliant future of peace and prosperity. For I believe that a Middle East that is genuinely democratic will be a Middle East truly at peace.
But while we hope and work for the best, we must also recognize that powerful forces oppose this future. They oppose modernity. They oppose democracy. They oppose peace.
Foremost among these forces is Iran. The tyranny in Tehran brutalizes its own people. It supports attacks against American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. It subjugates Lebanon and Gaza. It sponsors terror worldwide.
When I last stood here, I spoke of the dire consequences of Iran developing nuclear weapons. Now time is running out, and the hinge of history may soon turn. For the greatest danger facing humanity could soon be upon us: A militant Islamic regime armed with nuclear weapons.
Militant Islam threatens the world. It threatens Islam. I have no doubt that it will ultimately be defeated. It will eventually succumb to the forces of freedom and progress. But like other fanaticisms that were doomed to fail, militant Islam could exact a horrific price from all of us before its inevitable demise....
Now the threat to my country cannot be overstated. Those who dismiss it are sticking their heads in the sand. Less than seven decades after six million Jews were murdered, Iran’s leaders deny the Holocaust of the Jewish people, while calling for the annihilation of the Jewish state.
Leaders who spew such venom, should be banned from every respectable forum on the planet. But there is something that makes the outrage even greater: The lack of outrage. In much of the international community, the calls for our destruction are met with utter silence. It is even worse because there are many who rush to condemn Israel for defending itself against Iran’s terror proxies....
As for Israel, if history has taught the Jewish people anything, it is that we must take calls for our destruction seriously. We are a nation that rose from the ashes of the Holocaust. When we say never again, we mean never again. Israel always reserves the right to defend itself.
My friends, while Israel will be ever vigilant in its defense, we will never give up on our quest for peace. I guess we’ll give it up when we achieve it. Israel wants peace. Israel needs peace. We've achieved historic peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan that have held up for decades.
I remember what it was like before we had peace. I was nearly killed in a firefight inside the Suez Canal. I mean that literally. I battled terrorists along both banks of the Jordan River. Too many Israelis have lost loved ones. I know their grief. I lost my brother [Yonatan Netanyahu, pictured left, the hero of Entebbe, in 1976].
.... This is not easy for me. I recognize that in a genuine peace, we will be required to give up parts of the Jewish homeland. In Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers. We are not the British in India. We are 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 a vision of eternal peace. No distortion of history can deny the four thousand year old bond, between the Jewish people and the Jewish land....
We've helped the Palestinian economy by removing hundreds of barriers and roadblocks to the free flow of goods and people. The results have been nothing short of remarkable. The Palestinian economy is booming. It's growing by more than 10 per cent a year.
Palestinian cities look very different today than they did just a few years ago. They have shopping malls, movie theaters, restaurants, banks. They even have e-businesses. This is all happening without peace. Imagine what could happen with peace. Peace would herald a new day for both peoples. It would make the dream of a broader Arab-Israeli peace a realistic possibility.
So now here is the question. You have to ask it. If the benefits of peace with the Palestinians are so clear, why has peace eluded us? Because all six Israeli Prime Ministers since the signing of Oslo accords agreed to establish a Palestinian state. Myself included. So why has peace not been achieved? Because so far, the Palestinians have been unwilling to accept a Palestinian state, if it meant accepting a Jewish state alongside it.
You see, our conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state. It has always been about the existence of the Jewish state. This is what this conflict is about. In 1947, the United Nations voted to partition the land into a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Jews said yes. The Palestinians said no. 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.
So it is therefore absolutely vital for Israel’s security that a Palestinian state be fully demilitarized. And it is vital that Israel maintain a long-term military presence along the Jordan River. Solid security arrangements on the ground are necessary not only to protect the peace, they are necessary to protect Israel in case the peace unravels. For in our unstable region, no one can guarantee that our peace partners today will be there tomorrow.
.... Peace cannot be imposed. It must be negotiated. But it can only be negotiated with partners committed to peace.
And Hamas is not a partner for peace. Hamas remains committed to Israel's destruction and to terrorism. They have a charter. That charter not only calls for the obliteration of Israel, but says ‘kill the Jews wherever you find them’. Hamas’ leader condemned the killing of Osama bin Laden and praised him as a holy warrior. Now again I want to make this clear. Israel is prepared to sit down today and negotiate peace with the Palestinian Authority. I believe we can fashion a brilliant future of peace for our children. But Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by the Palestinian version of Al Qaeda.
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."
(See the entire speech and read the entire transcript here: http://elderofziyon.blogspot.com/2011/05/full-text-of-bibs-speech-before.html
In contrast to the predictably negative reaction of Al Beeb, a terrific op-ed in the London Daily Telegraph
by Nile Gardiner paid fulsome tribute to the "barnstorming ... magnificent address" by "a warrior statesman fighting literally for his nation's survival" and observed:
"Israel deserves our full support as a greatly valued friend and partner – it is a tremendous force for freedom and liberty amidst a sea of tyranny and despotism, and a vital bulwark in the face of Islamist terrorism."
As for Obama's prescribed formula, there are trenchant critiques in The Wall Street Journal
("Obama’s Peace ‘a War Formula’" by Bret Stephens, that paper's foreign affairs editor and deputy editorial page editor: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/144480
) and by Professor Barry Rubin.
Barry Rubin summarises the danger inherent in the situation thus:
"1. Israel gives up all West Bank first and then negotiates on borders.
2. Israel loses leverage for getting something in exchange for basically accepting 1967 borders.
3. Encourages the PA--as has now happened--to demand Israel accepts 1967 borders before negotiating.
4. Would rule out the Jordan Valley security zone he wants.
5. Palestinians don't have to accept an end of conflict, no right of return, or Israel as a Jewish state in exchange for getting a big thing they want. In short, Israel is being pressed toward a concession. What is the PA pressed to do? To talk with Israel and thus get a big concession!
6. In discussing swaps, Obama didn't mention settlement blocs so he has dropped assurances to Israel that it would get specific pieces of land it wants.
7. And of course he cannot be depended upon to back Israel on its needs but he can be depended on to demand more Israeli concessions.
8. The regional situation is very dangerous and it is not a time to be turning over territory to an unstable, hostile entity."
Read his entire piece: http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/2011/05/25/why-the-issue-of-land-landed-president-obama-in-trouble-with-israel/