Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could have read the phone book at the Congress podium and received the same standing ovation. His speech used the advice Moshe Sneh gave to himself. The late MK wrote on the draft of one of his speeches "weak argument, raise voice."
There's no question Bibi knew exactly which points in his speech would make the Congressmen rise to their feet in tumultuous applause. After all, that was his objective in the first place: to begin his bizarre visit to America by embarrassing President Barack Obama and end it by outflanking him with Congress' applause. It was no coincidence that he was complimented by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely.
So according to the Government Press Office, Netanyahu knows the 1,200 words of the U.S. Declaration of Independence by heart, but he hasn't changed his opinions since he published the second edition of his book "A Place Under the Sun" in 2001. Journalist Shalom Yerushalmi, who compared the forewords of the two editions, didn't discover any change in Netanyahu's view that a Palestinian state is a strategic disaster, that Jordan is actually Palestine and that any withdrawal exacerbates the situation.
As far as he's concerned, the speech in Congress was a declaration of intentions. But the issues raised are clearly unacceptable to the Palestinians; for example, that Jerusalem will never be divided and Israel must maintain a military presence along the Jordan River. As someone who presumably appears a man of peace, he didn't discuss the thorniest problems.
This speech deepened the rift between us and the Palestinians by conditioning the negotiations' chances of success on issues where Congress is unable to help. When it comes to conducting policy, there's a total separation between the executive branch and Congress. Look how many times Congress decided to transfer the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.
Well, have you seen them packing their things at the embassy on Hayarkon Street in Tel Aviv?
What did Bibi actually want when he organized an appearance in Congress for himself, near the date of the Jewish lobby's conference in Washington? Some observers say he wanted to put pressure on Obama, who is entering an election period, so that he would adopt Israel's positions. The public hazing of Obama in front of the media at the end of their meeting was embarrassing.
Douglas Bloomfield, AIPAC's long-time legislative director, writes in his blog that if Bibi is betting on Obama being a one-term president, he's not as smart as he thinks. At the same time, Gary Rosenblatt, editor of The Jewish Week, describes the White House incident as a "hasbara disaster" - a public relations disaster. The strategic relationship between the United States and Israel is stronger than ever, Bloomfield writes, but the political alliance suffered an unnecessary blow last week, when in front of journalists Bibi distorted what Obama had told him in private.
At the AIPAC conference the president was tough on the Palestinians. He promised to act in Europe to stop the declaration of a Palestinian state at the United Nations; he said including Hamas in the Palestinian government was a serious obstacle, and he didn't accompany that with a demand to freeze construction in the settlements. His adviser Stephen Hadley said Obama is pressuring the Palestinians to show that they are willing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, in order to negotiate with it.
Obama used all the friendly expressions presidents use - the close relations between the two countries and the profound commitment to maintain Israeli security and prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. As someone who wasn't especially connected to the Jews during his political career, Obama was moderate despite everything said against him in Israel under the inspiration of the right wing. He's not a vengeful president, even if he isn't in love with us.
He's a rational president who knows what's good for world peace, and above all, he's devoted to doing justice. Aspiring to a Middle East that will not be ruled by dictators who murder their own people, he counts us among the good guys and wishes us well. A failure of the peace process is not an option. The status quo cannot be maintained. True friends tell each other the truth.
So as the clouds of September approach, we have a problem with Bibi's savoir faire. A victory with the tricks and shticks of someone who finds it hard to drop the dream of a Greater Israel is leading us to destruction