by Ron and Allis Radosh
At the AIPAC final session this morning, the 14,000 delegates heard two powerful speeches. The first was delivered by Robert Menendez, the Democratic senator from New Jersey and chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, and the second was given by the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. He came to AIPAC a day after his meeting with President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and others in the administration.
Netanyahu’s speech took place not only after his meeting with the president, but two days after President Obama, in his interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, publicly chastised him. At that meeting, the president took what Goldberg termed a “sharper view.” Goldberg:
“[Obama argued] that if Netanyahu ‘does not believe that a peace deal with the Palestinians is the right thing to do for Israel, then he needs to articulate an alternative approach.’ He added, ‘It’s hard to come up with one that’s plausible.’”
Netanyahu’s speech was made within that context. Without specifically addressing the president’s remarks, Netanyahu made it clear that it was both in the United States and Israel’s interest to maintain our alliance, and to stand together as one in addressing the threats facing both democracies. But when it came to specifics, both he and Menendez made clear their disagreement with Obama on one critical issue — Obama’s claim that he was right to “to fight a congressional effort to impose more time-delayed sanctions on Iran just as nuclear negotiations were commencing.”
He came to draw a red line, Netanyahu told AIPAC, “between life and death, right and wrong,” between the “blessings of a brilliant future and the curses of a dark past.” Israel, he stressed, was a humane, compassionate nation and a force for good in the world, one that comprehended the dividing line between “decency and depravity.” He recounted how Israeli field hospitals treated Palestinians from Gaza and refugees from Syria, while Iran sends rockets, terrorism and missiles abroad, executes political prisoners, and represses millions in the brutal theocracy run by the mullahs.
Quoting the head of Hezbollah, who said “Iran loves death and Israel loves life” and that was why Iran would win, Netanyahu responded that the first part of his statement was correct, but the second was wrong — Israel would win that fight.
Turning to Iran’s nuclear program, he asked how Iran can claim it wants only nuclear power while they are building ICBMs that could reach the United States and carry a nuclear payload.
Netanyahu presented Iran’s program as a danger both to the U.S. and to Israel, and why the goal is to get rid of its stockpiles, its centrifuges, and its heavy water reactors. All of those are not needed for electricity, and only for a military nuclear capability.
The world powers — and clearly he included the United States — seemed content, he said, with leaving Iran with the capacity to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran would then be able to rapidly develop that goal if an agreement fell apart, and could do so as the world looked elsewhere.
As the leader of Israel, he said he would see to it that the Jewish people would “never be brought to the brink of extinction again,” and that he would do what was necessary to defend “the Jewish state of Israel.”
Of course, he said — addressing both Kerry’s argument and Obama’s — Israel wants diplomacy to succeed. But Iran’s threat, he cautioned, “could not be eliminated by any agreement at all,” only one “that forces Iran to dismantle its nuclear capability.”
That goal could be achieved not by relieving pressure on Iran, but by adding pressure. He said Iran came to the table only when pressure was applied, and only more pressure — not less — would get them to abandon their goal of military nuclear capability. Lessening sanctions and pressure would make war more likely. “The greater the pressure on Iran,” he said, “the smaller the chance that force will have to be used.”