PM Netanyahu’s speech before a joint session of Congress was a brilliant tour-de-force, timely, powerful, emotional and determined. It was enthusiastically received. It exemplified leadership in a way that Americans have not seen for years and for that reason alone would discomfit President Obama. Netanyahu became only the second foreign leader to address Congress three times (Winston Churchill was the other) and given the fact that Netanyahu lives in Israel, his three speeches contrast quite sharply with the mere ten or so times that Obama – who lives down the street – has addressed Congress. The relative numbers also speak volumes about each man’s attitudes towards Congress – Netanyahu’s admiration and Obama’s disdain. And given the stakes, those Democrats who boycotted – and only Democrats boycotted – and hid behind explanations that range from flimsy to reprehensible should be ashamed.
Start with the flimsy – the accusation that the speech was a “political stunt” and therefore without substance. Such could only be raised by a political lackeys unfit to serve in a position of influence, because it implies both that the Iranian threat is not real and that Obama is well-situated to protect America’s interests. They must explain why people should not take seriously Iran’s repeated declarations of its intent to annihilate Israel and its construction of intercontinental ballistic missiles that would enable its nuclear weapons to target the United States, and not just Israel. And those Jews who disappeared revealed again that their identities as progressives and Democrats are stronger than their identities as Jews and Americans. They are well represented in some of the liberal organizations that pretend to defend Jewish interests but essentially are just branches of the Democratic Party.
The reprehensible also stands out – the boycott by the entire Congressional Black Caucus whose reason for existence seems to be to keep racism alive by finding it everywhere and anywhere. Thus, Netanyahu’s address to Congress was deemed by them an insult to America’s black president, necessitating their boycott in Obama’s support. Are they serious? (In the end, Charlie Rangel came anyway after saying he would not attend. Good for him.)
There is a political dimension to the speech because it took place against the will of a sitting president with radically-different (not to mention, radical) views on America’s role in the world and as leader of the free world than is customary in the United States. Certainly Speaker Boehner was interested in reasserting the Congressional role in foreign policy rather than have the President marginalize Congress again, and credit him with not caving under the pressure brought to bear. But this started not with Boehner and Netanyahu but with Obama dispatching British PM David Cameron (also in the middle of an election campaign, by the way) to lobby Congress a short time ago against the re-imposition of sanctions on Iran if the talks fail. Why must Congress listen to Cameron and be deprived of listening to an opposing foreign voice, that of Netanyahu? That is a good question, and Boehner gave his answer quite compellingly. A co-equal branch of government can indeed have a mind and will of its own.
Much has been made of the harm allegedly caused to the “bipartisan” support for Israel. This is a sensitive area filled with truths, half-truths and mythology. It is important to note that not everyone who boycotted is necessarily anti-Israel; some are just timorous hirelings beholden to Obama, but some are anti-Israel. AIPAC went to great lengths over the last few days to strengthen the notion of bi-partisan support for Israel, as did the PM in his speech. Such is true, thankfully so, but needs to be nuanced a bit. Things are not the same as in the past, all protestations to the contrary notwithstanding.
The distinction seems to be as follows: bipartisan support for Israel is a Congressional phenomenon but it is no longer a grass roots phenomenon. Support for Israel in Congress is quite strong, and Israel counts among its most passionate devotees members of both parties. But it is clear to any observer that among the grass roots, support for Israel among Republicans is substantially higher than it is among Democrats. The recent Pew study bandied about in the media in the last few weeks bolsters this assertion: among Republicans, 77% of respondents favor Israel’s cause over the Palestinians. Among Democrats, only 39% support Israel. That is a substantial difference. Republicans are twice more likely to support Israel today than are Democrats. That is a staggering figure that Jews should not deny – nor for which, as some might, blame Israel.
One need only recall the 2012 Democratic National Convention whose platform at first omitted the boilerplate statement that “Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.” When a horrified Democratic establishment realized the glaring omission, they hastily proposed such a clause which was then voted down by a voice vote. Shocked at the mutiny of their own delegates, it was voted on again through another two voice votes. To most observers and listeners, the “no” votes against the resolution drowned out the “yes” votes. It wasn’t even close, but the aurally-challenged former Mayor of Los Angeles, convention chairman Antonio Villaraigosa, “heard” that the “yeses” had prevailed. (He was a good sport about the whole thing, keeping a straight face throughout.)
What has happened to the Democratic Party? Simply put, the activist base of the Democrats and the grass-roots are dominated by the George Soros wing – far-left, anti-American, internationalist, and anti-Israel. They are the ones who vote in primaries, they are the ones who donate money and they are the ones who serve as delegates. The one-dimensional media obsess on the split between the Republican establishment and the grass roots Tea Party but the far greater divide in American politics is between the mainstream Democrat and the George Soros-base. At least among the Republicans, all believe in a strong America, in American exceptionalism and on most fundamentals. The chasm amongst Democrats is much greater.
That is why Soros leftists such as John Yarmuth, Al Franken and Elizabeth Warren boycotted the Netanyahu speech. They and others will usually say the right things, sort of, but then act in ways that are harmful to Israel.
As it stands now, Congressional Democrats remain overwhelmingly supportive of Israel, but the Soros wing is gradually making inroads. That wing has already captured the White House (Obama is an acolyte) and its candidates are slowly trying to infiltrate Congress as well. If it happens – in many places, fear of the Soros candidates has been a boon for Republicans and that has limited their successes – the reality of bipartisanship will be undone. That might happens sooner than one thinks, as other Soros candidates are poised to capture Democratic strongholds in the coming two years. Those Soros affiliates will cause tzoros for the Democratic Party and for America.
And then liberal Jews will be left with nostalgia – Harry Truman’s recognition of Israel, JFK’s sale of Hawk missiles to Israel, and the long-time support for Israel among Congressional Democrats when they were in the majority. Certainly most presidents – of both parties – have been well-disposed to Israel, and support for Israel has never been considered controversial or politically risky. Not so anymore. Kudos to our own Senator Bob Menendez (D) who has stood up to the White House on a number of issues, come under tremendous pressure and pushed back – as in his forceful speech at AIPAC the other night castigating the sellout with Iran. He could become this generation’s Pat Moynihan and has won the admiration of lovers of Israel and America on both sides of the political divide. Time will tell whether or not his kind of Democrat is a dinosaur.
Time will also soon tell us the fate of Binyamin Netanyahu. Cast in the Churchillian role of warning the Western world about the dangers of fascism – Nazi fascism for Churchill and Islamofascism for Netanyahu – the PM gave a Churchillian speech, passionate and evocative, that framed the issues of our time in a memorable way and included rhetorical touches that will also endure. But he would do well to recall that Churchill won the war –and then ignominiously lost the next election. The “grateful” British people voted him out of office just two months later forcing Churchill to depart the Allied postwar conference at Potsdam.
Apparently, not everyone appreciates true leadership…until it is missing and until it reappears in a new guise. Only then do we realize the enormous potential impact of the strong leader – to accomplish, to inspire, to wage war against the forces of absolute evil and to prevail against all odds. The US Congress, in its warm embrace and enthusiastic reception of PM Netanyahu, showed that it both recognizes true leadership and will stand firmly with Israel in the shared struggles ahead. The Obama administration, having crudely mocked Netanyahu’s courage last year, saw both courage and resolve. Notwithstanding the administration, the alliance and friendship between the United States and Israel is as strong as ever.
And, proud Jews stood a little prouder, with the spirit of Purim in the air.
Happy Purim to all!