Friday 27 May 2011

For such a time as this

Last Tuesday (24 May), Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu delivered an electrifying speech to the US Congress. According to M J Rosenthal, the speech was “a series of insults to Palestinians and their national aspirations”.

In the opinion of Rosenthal, “Netanyahu's appearance itself was an insult”.

Furthermore, says Rosenthal, “The prime minister unambiguously stated that he had no intention of making peace with the Palestinians.”

You can read Rosenthal’s views here and see Netanyahu’s speech here and read the text here. Judge for yourself if Rosenberg is right.

Here’s what I think.

In years to come, Binyamin Netanyahu’s address to the US Congress on 24 May may come to be regarded as one of history’s greatest speeches, on a par with Winston Churchill’s “We will fight them on the beaches” oration and Martin Luther King Jr’s 1963 “I have a dream” speech.

When President Barack Obama declared a week before the Prime Minister’s speech, that “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps”, he must have known that Netanyahu could never accept such a proposal. A Palestinian state within “pre-1967 borders” would leave Israel a mere nine miles wide at its narrowest point, making the Jewish state completely indefensible.

When the Netanyahu boarded the plane for America two days after Obama’s comment, he did so knowing the future of his country was in his hands. He needed to convince Congress to support Israel. And it seems he did, receiving standing ovation after standing ovation.

“Israel has no better friend than America”, declared the Prime Minister. “And America has no better friend than Israel. We stand together to defend democracy. We stand together to advance peace. We stand together to fight terrorism.”

“In an unstable Middle East”, said Netanyahu, “Israel is the one anchor of stability. In a region of shifting alliances, Israel is America’s unwavering ally. Israel has always been pro-American. Israel will always be pro-American.”

Israel, he pointed out, has “a free press, independent courts, an open economy, rambunctious parliamentary debates. You think you guys are tough on one another in Congress? Come spend a day in the Knesset!”

Referring to the political turmoil in the Middle East, Netanyahu reminded Congress that “Courageous Arab protesters, are now struggling to secure these very same [democratic] rights for their peoples, for their societies … Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, only Israel’s Arab citizens enjoy real democratic rights … Of those 300 million Arabs, less than one-half of one-percent are truly free, and they’re all citizens of Israel!”

The speech might well be remembered as the charismatic leader’s finest hour. As more and more nations line up to support the creation of a Palestinian state governed by leaders who refuse to recognise Israel’s right to exist, Netanyahu – whose name means, “The Lord has given” – may indeed prove to be God’s gift to the nation.

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