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Netanyahu Vs. the Shadow of Annihilation

Yes, the P.M. added, it would be best if Iran abandoned its programs peacefully. But for fifteen years, it has been a danger to the peace of the world, and the truth is that “diplomacy has not worked,” nor, he added, have sanctions. Israel, he said, has waited patiently for the international community to resolve the issue, for diplomacy and then sanctions to work. “None of us,” he concluded, “can afford to wait much longer. I will never let my people live in the shadow of annihilation.”

He noted that some commentators have argued that it is less dangerous for Iran to get an atomic bomb than what it would take to stop them, since force would provoke a more vindictive response from Iran. Turning to history to prove his point, Netanyahu told the audience about the request that the World Jewish Congress had made to the U.S. War Department in 1944, asking that the allies bomb the railroad tracks at Auschwitz. Several weeks later they received their answer. The railroad tracks could not be destroyed, the Department wrote back, because it might “provoke” the Nazis to do even worse!

He concluded, 2012 is not 1944. The Jewish people are different and have a state of their own, a Jewish state that will “defend Jewish lives and fight for our very survival.” Yelling out the slogan “Never Again,” Netanyahu concluded that Israel must “have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threats. When it comes to our survival we must remain the master of our fate.” Israel, on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Purim, is a “Jewish state capable of defending the Jewish people,” and he ended by expressing his gratitude “to have friends who love the state of Israel and respect its right to defend itself.”

Netanyahu did not say what transpired in his meeting with Obama. He did not have to. He praised the president’s speech and agreed with him that Iran must not be allowed to have nuclear weapons, that all options are on the table, and that containment is not acceptable. But he made it clear that if Iran does not stop its march to nuclear capability, Israel will have to act to defend the Jewish people, and prevent another Holocaust in the making. In making that case, he threw down a gauntlet to Obama, the world at large, and especially the mullahs in Iran. Netanyahu means what he says, and Obama must take him very, very seriously.

The president may claim that he has Israel’s back, and will stand with the Jewish state in its time of need. Clearly, the AIPAC audience -- a good many of whose members are  Democrats who want to support their president -- was not satisfied with his assurances. Nor, most likely, was Prime Minister Netanyahu. When push comes to shove, he asserted, it will be up to Israel to defend itself. Its leaders have learned from history that it cannot afford to rely on others, even those who purport to be its best friends. That message, we trust, was not lost on Barack Obama and his advisors.