In August 2007 I was part of a small group including Andrew Breitbart, Jim Hoft, Jeff Emanuel, and Laurence Solov that met with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in Netanyahu’s Tel Aviv office. (Netanyahu was then head of the Likud Party in opposition to the Olmert government.) Our meeting had been arranged by Fern Oppenheim of America’s Voices in Israel. Fern led our group and snapped a picture of us with Netanyahu as we prepared to leave his office. I don’t think there was anyone in Israel with whom Fern would have been unable to get us at least a few minutes. We skipped the then current prime minister to meet up with the once and future prime minister.
At our meeting we talked mostly about the dangers of the Iranian regime acquiring a nuclear bomb. It was a subject to which Netanyahu had obviously devoted great thought. “This has to be stopped,” Netanyahu concluded.
Iran was the true focus of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s brilliant speech to the joint session of Congress yesterday. It would be a shame to overlook this thread of the speech because of the political context in which it was embedded. This is the heart of the speech: “Now, as for Israel, if history has taught the Jewish people anything, it is that we must take calls for our destruction seriously. We are a nation that rose from the ashes of the Holocaust. When we say Never again, we mean never again.”
Netanyahu injected a personal note to respond to President Obama and others who lecture Israel on its need for peace:
[W]e want peace. Because we need peace.
Now, we’ve achieved historic peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, and these have held up for decades.
I remember what it was like before we had peace. I was nearly killed in a firefight inside the Suez Canal — I mean that literally — inside the Suez Canal. I was going down to the bottom with a 40- pound pack — ammunition pack on my back, and somebody reached out to grab me. And they’re still looking for the guy who did such a stupid thing.
I was nearly killed there.
And I remember battling terrorists along both banks of the Jordan.
Too many Israelis have lost loved ones, and I know their grief.
I lost my brother. So no one in Israel wants to return to those terrible days.
Netanyahu’s older brother, Jonathan Netanyahu, was the commander of the elite Israeli army commando unit that conducted the incredible Entebbe rescue operation in 1976. He was killed in action during the operation at the age of 30.
Netanyahu’s speech ended on a Janus-like grace note:
My friends, the momentous trials of the last century and the unfolding events of this century attest to the decisive role of the United States in defending peace and advancing freedom. Providence entrusted the United States to be the guardian of liberty. All people who cherish freedom owe a profound debt of gratitude to your great nation.
Among the most grateful nations is my nation, the people of Israel, who have fought for their liberty and survival against impossible odds in ancient and modern times alike.
I speak on behalf of the Jewish people and the Jewish state when I say to you, representatives of America, thank you.
Thank you. Thank you for your unwavering support for Israel. Thank you for ensuring that the flame of freedom burns bright throughout the world.
May God bless all of you, and may God forever bless the United States of America.
Among the many Churchillian elements of Netanyahu’s speech, the hearfelt tribute to the United States is a key. It looks back, recognizing deeds done and sacrifices made. It also looks ahead, tacitly calling on the United States to resume its providential role in “the unfolding events of this century[.]”