PM: Israel has acted against US advice before

House Speaker John Boehner pledges Congress will never let Jewish state ‘stand alone.'

 Binyamin Netanyahu w Speaker John Boehner 390 (photo credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque )
Binyamin Netanyahu w Speaker John Boehner 390
(photo credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque )
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 opposition.
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 nuclear arms.
“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.
“Now 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 Hillary Clinton.
Last week, he met with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa to enlist his support for action against Iran.
Netanyahu 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 Iran.”
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.”
On Monday 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 annihilation.”
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.
And containment is definitely not an option. The Jewish state will not allow those seeking our destruction to possess the means to achieve that goal.”
While 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 so.
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.”
“We’ve waited 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 before.
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 Auschwitz.
“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 fate.”
He made mention of the upcoming holiday of Purim, saying that in every generation there were those who wished to destroy the Jewish people.
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.”