I, Benjamin Netanyahu, stand here before you, the elected representatives of the Congress of the United States, with great humility.
All of us who have assumed elected office must surely know that our political careers are transitory, and that we are but pawns in the grand sweep of things. There are powers greater than us, and civilizational tides that inevitably drive diplomatic history more than we do.
And yet there are, very occasionally, critical decision-making moments where we have the opportunity to truly affect the future of our countries and peoples. These are binary moments, where a hard choice has to made between clearly contradictory options; where fudging the issue just isn’t possible.
Such a moment has indeed arrived – for the United States of America, for the world community of democratic nations, for the sane countries of the Middle East, and for Israel.
Will the radical, revolutionary Islamic Republic of Iran be allowed to become a regional hegemon with a nuclear military capability just one turn of a screw away from the atomic bomb, or will the international community finally bring about the complete dismantlement of Iran’s monstrous nuclear military infrastructure? For the Jewish people in the sovereign State of Israel, this is an existential matter.
After 2,000 years of dispersion and devastation, we have returned from every corner of the globe to our ancestral homeland, a small land of the East Coast of the Mediterranean, hallowed in history and burdened by the desolation of millennia. We have watered the land’s parched soul and miraculously fashioned a thriving modern polity that is making concrete contributions to the world in science, medicine, technology and the arts.
We are a country that lives on faith and creativity, with an outstretched hand for peace and goodwill.
Our investment in the flourishing of Zion and rebuilding of Jewish nationhood cannot be imperiled. I need you to know in the most unambiguous way that Israel cannot countenance a future where an explicit Iranian threat to annihilate Israel with a nuclear weapon hangs over our heads.
We will not abide the shadow of destruction. And unlike Jews who were trapped in Nazi-occupied Europe just 70 years ago, Israel has the means to defend itself and the resolve to do so, if necessary.
Please make no mistake about Israel’s determination in this matter.
I would not be making this foray into Washington, with all the attendant political controversy and risk, had the stakes not been so high. I would not be pushing beyond the comfort zone in which US-Israel relations are properly conducted had this been a normal matter. It isn’t.
And thus I appeal to you to block any agreement with Iran that fails to bring about a full accounting of Iran’s secret and illegal nuclear development record. I implore you not to sanitize Iran’s nuclear enrichment apparatus, not to overlook its long-range missile forces, and not to forgive Iran’s aggressive support for terrorist armies across the Middle East. Please don’t fritter- away the economic leverage still needed to check Iran’s imperial ambitions.
But allow me to return to a broader perspective, since the matter at hand goes far beyond the fate of Israel.
Alas, the Islamic Republic of Iran is an enemy at war with Western civilization. Tehran is not seeking peaceful integration in the Middle East or a values-based reconciliation with the West, but rather obviously dark domination of the region and apocalyptic victory over the West. From Shiraz to Sanaa and from Tabriz to Tripoli, we see Iran emerging as a supreme, revanchist power; with expansionist aspirations beyond the region.
Is America is ready to legitimize a seismic shift in the global balance of power through an irresolute and debilitating bargain with the ayatollahs of Iran? I pray not.
My friends, I know that these are harsh words. It’s not pleasant to acknowledge that there are enemies out there with genuinely evil intentions. It is sometimes hard to find the fortitude necessary to recognize and respond to such enormous challenges with clarity. It is much easier to obfuscate and talk about competing interests that can be massaged and managed through “smart” diplomacy.
Which is why this is a moment of arresting gravity; a moment for tenacity; perhaps a historical turning point, where we are required to stand firm in the face of a fundamental and fundamentalist challenge to our liberal-democratic values and our security.
My friends, this week Jews around the word read the Book of Esther and mark the holiday called Purim, which is all about the link between fate, fortune, and valiant human endeavor.
One the one hand, Esther teaches us that beyond the intrigue of Persian royal courtyards and American oval offices, and beyond the vagaries of political parties and transient enmities, lies a hidden hand operating on a transcendental plane.
Indeed, in Israel I feel God’s guidance every day. I am also certain that the Lord guides the great nation of America, which shoulders the awesome responsibility of being the indispensable leader of the free world.
But on the other hand, the saga that unfolded in ancient Shushan shows that divine decision- making bows before virtuous and bold action taken by human leaders. Presidents, prime ministers and parliamentarians have the responsibility to act wisely, bravely, and honestly – even though decisive control of history lies elsewhere.
“Everything is in the hand of Heaven”, said the Talmudic sage Rabbi Chanina, “but man still possesses moral freedom” (Berachot 33b). Or to paraphrase Winston Churchill, “In a long struggle: resolution. At a moral crossroads: defiance. In true peace: good will.”
May we muster the fortitude to confront Iran’s nuclear ambitions and force them to a comprehensive, sustainable, and unequivocally moral end.