Netanyahu's Congress Speech Draws Praise in Saudi Arabia, Derision in West

The enemy of his enemy gives friendly advice to Obama to listen to the Israeli prime minister, warning of Iran's terrorist ambitions.

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Haaretz
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 Netanyahu acknowledging applause during his address to a joint meeting of Congress in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 3, 2015.
Netanyahu acknowledging applause during his address to a joint meeting of Congress in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 3, 2015.Credit: Reuters
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Haaretz

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress on Tuesday drew cackles from the usual news sites, he garnered support from an unexpected place: Saudi Arabia.

A day after the prime minister declared that the "enemy of my enemy is my enemy," Faisal J. Abbas of Al-Arabiya, a Saudi-owned news channel, penned an opinion piece Wednesday calling on U.S. President Obama to listen to Netanyahu on Iran.

"It is extremely rare for any reasonable person to ever agree with anything Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says or does," wrote Abbas. "However, one must admit, Bibi did get it right, at least when it came to dealing with Iran."

According to Abbas, Netanyahu accurately summarized the "clear and present danger" posed by Iran.

"What is absurd, however, is that despite this being perhaps the only thing that brings together Arabs and Israelis (as it threatens them all), the only stakeholder that seems not to realize the danger of the situation is President Obama," he wrote.

He warned that Iran's "expansionist approach and state-sponsored terrorism activities" constituted an equal if not greater threat than its nuclear ambitions, noting the Iranian military's expansion into Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Palestine.

The New York Times took an opposing stance in its editorial on Wednesday.

"Mr. Netanyahu’s speech offered nothing of substance that was new, making it clear that this performance was all about proving his toughness on security issues ahead of the parliamentary election he faces on March 17," the editorial board wrote. "His demand that Mr. Obama push for a better deal is hollow. He clearly doesn’t want negotiations and failed to suggest any reasonable alternative approach that could halt Iran’s nuclear efforts."

From the British angle, the BBC's Middle East editor took a very cynical view of the speech.

"The speech was classic Netanyahu. He mixed the politics of fear with the politics of bravery in adversity. Iran was gobbling up Middle East states – a reference to its influence in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen – while Israel stood strong, never again allowing the Jews to be passive victims," wrote Jeremy Bowen. "It was a direct intervention in American politics. Prime Minister Netanyahu wants the Congress to do all it can to block an agreement with Iran, if one is made."

He predicted Netanyahu's "skillful rhetoric will connect with many Americans," and that, should he reach a deal, Obama would have to "deploy his own considerable way with words to sell it to his own people."

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