WASHINGTON – Citing historical precedents in which the US and Israel did not see
eye-to-eye and Israel acted according to its own perception of its interests,
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told congressional leaders Tuesday that Israel
viewed things differently than the US did at times, because it was not a global
power and was more vulnerable.
Israeli sources said Netanyahu, meeting
congressional leaders before flying back to Israel Tuesday evening, noted that
David Ben-Gurion declared independence against the advice of the US; Levi Eshkol
launched a preemptive attack in 1967, against Washington’s counsel; and Menachem
Begin decided to bomb the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 despite US
America has global interests, while Israel is “on the ground
and more vulnerable,” Netanyahu said in reference to Iran, saying that this made
for a very different perspective.
Netanyahu followed up his meeting at
the White House Monday with meetings on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, as leaders of
both parties pledged commitment to a robust policy to keep Iran from getting
“The US Congress will always stand by Israel, and the US
Congress will never allow Israel to stand alone,” House Speaker John Boehner
(R-Ohio) said Tuesday, standing alongside Netanyahu and the House leadership
from both parties.
“The looming threat of a nuclear Iran cannot be
ignored,” he said, warning that “ambiguity could lead to serious miscalculation,
which is what we collectively hope to avoid.”
Boehner said that Israel
and the US had to be clear with each other, and with the Iranians.
is the time to stand together, and we are here today to tell the prime minister
that Congress intends to do so,” he declared.
House Minority Leader Nancy
Pelosi (D-California) echoed his comments, saying that “rejecting containment of
Iran and preventing them from having a nuclear weapon” was in the interests of
the US, Israel and the region.
Boehner and Pelosi spoke just prior to a
luncheon meeting with Netanyahu – along with other congressional leaders – as
the prime minister was winding down his two-day visit to Washington. Before
meeting the congressional leadership, Netanyahu met with US Secretary of State
Last week, he met with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen
Harper in Ottawa to enlist his support for action against Iran.
thanked the congressional leaders for their support and “remarkable solidarity”
when it came to Israel.
“I [will] go back to Israel feeling that we have
great friends in Washington,” he said.
National Security Council head
Ya’acov Amidror said that following the trip to Washington there was a need to
return to Israel to “digest” what the Americans had said, and make decisions
“based on Israel’s interests and the premise upon which Israel was created –
that we are able to defend ourselves.”
Amidror said that during
Netanyahu’s meeting with Obama, the US president had made clear that containment
of a nuclear Iran was not an option, something Amidror said was a message it was
important for Tehran to understand.
During the meetings, Amidror said,
several points were made clear: that Israel retains the freedom of action to
defend itself as it sees fit, and that there is not only a cost for an attack on
Iran, but also a “very, very high price to the possibility of a nuclear
He added that the overall importance of the meeting with Obama was
that both sides now better understood the positions of the other. In a
relationship as important as the one between the US and Israel, he said, “this
type of understanding is critical in continuing the dialogue.”
night, just after meeting Obama, Netanyahu delivered a passionate speech to some
13,000 delegates at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)
Policy Conference, intoning the “Never Again” mantra and pledging that “as prime
minister of Israel, I will never let my people live in the shadow of
Netanyahu adopted a tough tone toward the Islamic
Republic, drawing on the tragic history of the Holocaust to argue that the
world, and the Jewish people, could not “accept a world in which the ayatollahs
have atomic bombs.”
“We are determined to prevent Iran from developing
nuclear weapons,” he said. “We leave all options on the table.
containment is definitely not an option. The Jewish state will not allow those
seeking our destruction to possess the means to achieve that goal.”
forcefully asserting Israel’s right to defend itself, and spelling out the
dangers Iran posed to the world, Netanyahu stopped well short of providing any
indication of how or when Israel might act.
“Every day, I open the papers
and read about these red lines and these time lines,” he said, in reference to
weeks of speculation on differences between the US and Israel about how to deal
with Iran. “I read about what Israel has decided to do or what Israel might do.
Well, I’m not going to talk to you about what Israel will do or will not do. I
never talk about that.”
Instead, the speech focused on Israel’s
historical imperative and justification to act if it felt the need to do
Netanyahu said he had warned against a nuclear Iran for 15 years, the
international community had tried diplomacy to stop it for the last decade, and
the world had imposed sanctions over the last six years – but none of it had
worked. While expressing appreciation for Obama’s efforts to impose tougher
sanctions, he said that Tehran’s “nuclear march goes on.”
for diplomacy to work,” he said. “We’ve waited for sanctions to work. None of us
can afford to wait much longer.”
Netanyahu chastised unnamed
“commentators” for saying that stopping Iran from obtaining a bomb was more
dangerous then letting it have one.
“They say that a military
confrontation with Iran would undermine the efforts already under way, that it
would be ineffective, and that it would provoke even more vindictive action by
Iran,” he said, adding that he had heard, and even read, those arguments
He then dramatically displayed copies of letters that the World
Jewish Congress had exchanged with the US War Department at the height of the
Holocaust in 1944 that implored the US government to bomb
“Such an operation could be executed only by diverting
considerable air support essential to the success of our forces elsewhere, and
in any case would be of such doubtful efficacy that it would not warrant the use
of our resources,” Netanyahu read from the letters.
“And here’s the most
remarkable sentence of all,” he added, quoting, “‘Such an effort might provoke
even more vindictive action by the Germans.’” “Think about that: ‘even more
vindictive action than the Holocaust,’” he said. “My friends, this is not 1944.
The American government today is different.
You heard it in President
Obama’s speech yesterday. But here’s my point. The Jewish people are also
different. Today we have a state of our own. The purpose of the Jewish state is
to secure the Jewish future. That is why Israel must always have the ability to
defend itself, by itself, against any threat.”
Netanyahu reiterated what
he had said before meeting Obama: “We must always remain the masters of our
He made mention of the upcoming holiday of Purim, saying that in
every generation there were those who wished to destroy the Jewish
But, he added, “in this generation we are blessed to live in a
time when there is a Jewish state capable of defending the Jewish people.”