The Corner

Quick Thoughts on Netanyahu and His Speech

1. The presence of Elie Wiesel in the chamber said almost all that needs to be said. He is the world’s foremost symbol of Holocaust remembrance. Israelis such as Benjamin Netanyahu believe that Jews in Israel are facing a second holocaust, delivered by Iran through nuclear weapons.

2. Have you ever wanted to say something — burned to say something — before it was too late? That has been Netanyahu’s feeling in recent days, I believe.

3. He and Barack Obama are completely different human beings. It would be hard to imagine two men more different — especially two men leading liberal democracies. Netanyahu reveres Churchill. Churchill is not so much Obama’s bag. Obama is more an Edward Said man.

This is a considerable gulf. (Paul Johnson, the great British historian, called Said a “malevolent liar and propagandist, who has been responsible for more harm than any other intellectual of his generation.”)

4. Netanyahu was skillful in talking about Iran and ISIS. Some people think that you can get Iran to be an ally against ISIS. But the Iranian regime and ISIS are basically the same, as Netanyahu explained. They both seek the supremacy of radical Islam. They differ only on who will enforce the supremacy — who will be on top.

5. Netanyahu made you think, “What if the beheaders had nuclear weapons?” The marriage of radical Islam with nuclear weapons is the world’s chief nightmare, or ought to be.

6. He was very good at saying, “Iran is your problem too, you know: not just Israel’s, not just the Jews’.”

7. I sometimes wonder about the Obama administration: Do they want — truly want — to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon? Do they think it’s a big deal, as Netanyahu does (and as I do)? Or are they somewhat relaxed on the question?

Not long ago, I was talking with an anti-Israel intellectual and businessman. His view was, “If Israel has the bomb, why shouldn’t Iran? Why should Israel be the only nuclear power in the region?”

There are a lot of people who think this way, and I wonder about the extent of such thinking in the White House. I don’t mean to sound McCarthyite. I’m not leveling an accusation. I’m just wondering — legitimately, I think.

8. One thing Netanyahu brought today was clarity — logical and moral clarity.

9. He could lose his upcoming election. Israel, unlike its foes, is a democracy. But at least he said his piece. At least he said the necessary while he still could. He will not have to fault himself for reticence.

10. People take great and natural pleasure in saying “I told you so.” It may be shameful, but it’s entirely human. Israelis such as Netanyahu will not take pleasure in saying “I told you so,” if Iran acquires the bomb and wreaks destruction. (Of course, Israelis may not be alive to say anything at all.)

11. In 2009, I interviewed John Negroponte, the veteran diplomat who had been director of national intelligence. I asked him about Iran and nukes. He said, “I think that’s what they want, I think that’s what they’re headed towards, I think that’s what they’re going to get.”

We are now in March 2015. I’m a bit surprised that the mullahs have not gone nuclear already. How much longer can they be held off? June?

12. In his speech today, Netanyahu touched on the meaning of Zionism. One of the things it means is, Jews may go down, as before, but they will not go down without firing weapons in their own defense.

13. In a National Review forum several years ago, Paul Johnson called Netanyahu “a man of destiny.” It may be so.

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