What Netanyahu Could Say to Congress

'Time to talk tachlis' about Iran and echo the only other foreign leader to address the Congress three times - Winston Churchill.

Seth Lipsky
Seth Lipsky
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Benjamin Netanyahu during his address before Congress.
Benjamin Netanyahu during his address before Congress. Credit: Reuters
Seth Lipsky
Seth Lipsky

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been invited to address the U.S. Congress on March 3. Offered here in a friendly spirit is a draft text:

Mr. Speaker, Members of Congress, Distinguished Guests — Friends. I am deeply humbled to have been asked to come back to this chamber a third time. It would be vainglorious of me to liken myself to the only other foreign leader to address you three times from this podium, Winston Churchill, but I like to think — and mean this as a compliment to this body — that it is no coincidence that Churchill, too, was a Zionist.

That is a fact on which to pause. One of Churchill’s modern biographers reminds us that Zionism emerged as a political cause just as Churchill was beginning his career. Churchill, he noted, advocated a Jewish homeland as early as 1906, extolled the idea of a Jewish state based in Jerusalem as early as 1908, implemented the Balfour Declaration in the 1920s, and advocated Zionism into the post-World War II era.

Churchill’s Zionism cannot be unrelated to his comprehension of what was happening in Germany in the 1930s. It is no accident that he understood what would happen at Munich. We are at a moment when we must heed the lessons of the past. Forgive me, but I am the son of a historian. I want to share with you the fact that I am not indifferent to the concerns President Obama has expressed about my visit.

After all, I attended Cheltenham High School, which is only 14 Pennsylvania miles from the hall where your Founders wrote America’s governing law. I studied America’s national parchment enough to comprehend that it was written in the light of Sinai. You all know that when William Bradford stepped off the Mayflower, he referred to America as “Zion” and that the father of your Constitution, James Madison, was fluent in Hebrew.

Please know, also, that while we have in Israel a parliamentary system, where the chief executive also serves in the legislature, I admire your system of separated powers. There is not a particle, not a gluon of disrespect for your president’s constitutional powers of reception and as commander in chief; I would be honored to be received by President Obama, and I will always tell him the same thing that I will tell you.

In accepting your invitation, I am cognizant of this body’s own powers over international affairs, including to regulate commerce with foreign nations, raise an army, establish a navy, declare war, and grant letters of marque and reprisal — those classic instruments of war that, unlike Europe, neither America nor Israel have foresworn. We are approaching a moment when every one of those powers may be needed.

So let us now — as is said in Yiddish — talk tachlis. My message is that it is time to pass the Nuclear Weapon-Free Iran Act. Only you, your president, and your courts can decide what is in the interest of America. What I can offer is Israel’s humble opinion. My country and I are profoundly grateful for the work of Senator Menendez and Senator Kirk, and your new chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Corker. I hope it passes.

My understanding is that their bill would not impose either new or pre-existing sanctions unless Iran either fails to reach an agreement or defaults. Then, and only then, would Menendez-Kirk result in a speedy re-imposition of sanctions and end relief that has been granted on a contingency basis. That is smart. To resort again to Yiddish, that is using your seichel.

I share President Obama’s fear that Menendez-Kirk may derail the P5+1 talks. But to drop Menendez-Kirk because of that fear would be to prove the adage that the appeasement is not just in the agreement but in the talking. It’s in the trimming that a party must do to stay at the table. Let us not trim. The situation is too dangerous, and we have no reason to trim.

My friends, when in 1952 Churchill spoke here for the third time, one of the questions he addressed was Israel. “From the days of the Balfour Declaration I have desired that the Jews should have a national home, and I have worked for that end,” he said from this rostrum. “I rejoice to pay my tribute here to the achievements of those who have founded the Israelite State, who have defended themselves with tenacity, and who offer asylum to great numbers of Jewish refugees.”

The towering British Zionist voiced the hope that Israel would “convert deserts into gardens” and reach an agreement with the Arabs to secure our peace and prosperity. Let us together stand up to the threats of Iran, to its demands for appeasement, so that we can lift from our peoples the shadow of a nuclear holocaust and redeem the vision of the giants on whose shoulders all of us stand.

Seth Lipsky is editor of The New York Sun. He was a foreign editor and a member of the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal, founding editor of The Forward and editor from 1990 to 2000.

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