Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at the AIPAC policy conference yesterday and previewed his speech to the joint session of Congress today. The text of his AIPAC speech is posted here. Part 1 of the video is below; part 2 is here. At the heart of Netanyahu’s speech is this set of propositions:
It’s time to stop blaming Israel for all of the region’s problems.
Let me stress one thing.
Peace between Israelis and Palestinians is a vital need for us.
Peace would be the realization of a powerful and eternal dream.
But it is not a panacea for the endemic problems of the Middle East.
It will not give women is some Arab countries in the Middle East the right to drive a car.
It will not prevent Churches from being bombed.
It will not keep journalists out of jail.
What will change all this? One word.
Democracy. Real, genuine, democracy.
By democracy, I don’t just mean elections.
I mean Freedom of Speech. Freedom of the Press. Freedom of Assembly.
The Rule of Law. Rights for women, for gays, for minorities, for everyone.
What the people of the Middle East need is what you have in America, and what we have in Israel.
It’s time to recognize this basic truth:
Israel is not what’s wrong about the Middle East.
Israel is what’s right about the Middle East.
Netanyahu immediately followed up with a statement of the essence of the dispute that somehow escapes President Obama:
Israel wants peace because we know the pain of terror and the agony of war.
We want peace because we know the blessings peace could bring to us and to our Palestinian neighbors.
But if we hope to advance peace with the Palestinians, then it is time that we admitted another truth.
This conflict has raged for nearly a century because the Palestinians refuse to end it.
They refuse to accept the Jewish state.
This is what this conflict has always been about.
The truth of Netanyahu’s observations stares us in the face every day. Saul Bellow’s aphorism, originally formulated in this context, has come to look like an eternal verity: “A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.”