“America and Israel have had some serious disagreements over the course of our nearly 70-year-old friendship,” Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu told AIPAC during his highly-anticipated speech today, but “I mention them to make a point.” That history of disagreements with the US on Israeli security actions demonstrates that the friendship between the two nations does not rely on lockstep agreement, Netanyahu argued. However, Netanyahu clearly wants to make another point with this recitation of disagreements, which is that Israel will keep its own counsel on how to protect itself from threats in the region — including Iran (via Daniel Halper):
In 1948, Secretary of State George Marshall opposed David Ben-Gurion’s intention to declare statehood. That’s an understatement — he vehemently opposed it. But, Ben-Gurion, understanding what was at stake, went ahead and declared Israel’s independence. In 1967, as an Arab noose was tightening around Israel’s neck, the United States warned [the prime minister] that if Israel acted alone, it would be alone. But Israel did act –acted alone — to defend itself. In 1981, under the leadership of Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Israel destroyed a nuclear reactor at Osirak. The United States criticized Israel and suspended arms-transfers for three months. And in 2002, after the worst wave of Palestinian terror attacks in Israel’s history, Prime Minister Sharon launched Operation Defensive Shield. The United States demanded that Israel withdraw its troops immediately but Sharon continued until the operation was completed.
There’s a reason I mention all of these. I mention them to make a point. Despite occasional disagreements, the friendship between America and Israel grew stronger and stronger, decade after decade. And our friendship will weather the current disagreements as well to grow even stronger in the future.
Netanyahu also told AIPAC that he didn’t come to the US to provoke a partisan battle with the Obama administration. But …
Netanyahu insisted that his visit, including Tuesday’s scheduled speech to a joint session of Congress, was “not intended to show any disrespect to President Obama” or his office. “I have great respect for both,” he said.
The speech is “also not intended” to inject Israel into “the American partisan debate,” he added. …
Netanyahu, however, declared that he had a “moral obligation to speak up in the face of these dangers” from Iran “while there is still time to avert them.”
“For 2,000 years my people, the Jewish people, were stateless, defenseless, voiceless,” he said. “We were utterly powerless against our enemies who swore to destroy us.” Now, he said, Israelis have a voice. “I plan to use that voice.”
The message seems pretty clear from the AIPAC dais. Netanyahu sees Iran as the greatest danger in the region — more so than ISIS, thanks to Iranian proxies Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, and perhaps Hamas in the West Bank. In that, Netanyahu aligns pretty well with the Sunni states in the region, particularly Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
What’s more, Netanyahu is worried that the Obama administration either doesn’t see the danger, or doesn’t care as much about it as Obama does about getting a deal with Iran that will seal his “legacy” in the short term. Netanyahu believes that the term will be very short indeed, and that Iranian nuclear ambitions will hardly be dampened by the terms which Barack Obama and John Kerry have negotiated — and for good reason. The deal leaves in place the existing infrastructure to produce weapons-grade material for nuclear devices, with only the IAEA and Iranian voluntary cooperation as obstacles. Furthermore, the retreat from sanctions will stabilize the mullahcracy and dampen democratization and regime change efforts that could actually end the radical threat to the region that the Iranian mullahs pose.
Netanyahu will speak tomorrow in Congress, where Democrats may be grumbling about how the appearance was arranged but share the same deep concerns about the path which the Obama administration has taken with Iran. Netanyahu may want to stress friendship and bipartisanship, but those aren’t his highest priorities. “There’s not a single day — not one day — that I didn’t think about the survival of my country,” Netanyahu told AIPAC and will likely tell Congress tomorrow, “and the actions I take to ensure that survival. Not one day.”
Newsmax has the whole speech here: