I can’t watch Benjamin Netanyahu speak without being mesmerized. Maybe it’s the voice made for public speaking. Maybe it’s the earnestness. More likely it’s the timbre in the voice coupled with the knowledge Israel must feel very vulnerable right now.
There’s a personal element for me as well. Much of my heritage, my faith, and classical education comes directly from the Jewish faith, as it does for many Christians my age. Some may sneer at that statement; I don’t care because it’s true.
As Netanyahu looked at members in the assembly, there was a point in his address when he said, “Israel will not allow Iran to get nuclear weapons…If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone.” He said that in doing so, Israel would be defending “many, many others.” That nuanced statement references other Mideast countries who are also concerned about Iran’s objectives.
Speaking to a UN body where quite a few seats were empty, Netanyahu got across a necessary point. Iran is well on its way to nuclear weapons and because that country has repeatedly vowed to annihilate Israel, the prime minister’s concerns are not overblown.
For a moment, cameras panned to UN Ambassador Samantha Power as she listened to Netanyahu’s speech. At least I think it was Power. She had a look of incredulity on her face, or anguish. I’m not sure which.
Netanyahu invoked North Korea as an example of a dangerous regime that worked its way, despite sanctions and rhetoric, to nuclear weaponry. North Korea denied the goal of nuclear weapons—until they got them. The irony is that the United States, under the Democrat President Bill Clinton, helped pay for the weapons indirectly. Details on concessions Clinton made to the North Koreans are explained in Ben Johnson’s analysis at Front Page magazine, “Appeasing North Korea: The Clinton Legacy.” Johnson wrote:
“In August 1998, North Korea lobbed a Taepo Dong 1 missile over Japan. Four months later, officials refused U.S. inspectors access to a suspected underground nuclear reactor at Kumchang-ni. President Clinton then sweetened the deal by rewarding Kim Jong Il's half-year-long stall tactics with 1.1 million tons of food worth nearly $200 million. Not surprisingly, American inspectors found no signs of wrongdoing at the long-sanitized facility.”
Reports surfaced claiming the food was used to feed North Korea’s military rather than the country’s people. Clinton fought with Republicans about the matter, but held to his vision of an honest, peaceful North Korea. The communist country proved Clinton wrong.
North Korea had pursued a long path to those weapons, but they manifested under Clinton.
Netanyahu called Iran’s new president Hasan Rouhani a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” It was evident that President Barack Obama’s overtures to Rouhani are a source of concern for Israel despite official statements.
Netanyahu said he and other Israeli prime ministers have been willing to make “painful concessions” to Palestinian leaders to achieve peace, but those leaders aren’t willing to compromise. They refuse to recognize the legitimacy of Israel.
Netanyahu told a story about his grandfather being beaten by anti-Semites in Europe. Netanyahu said, “Together we’ve transformed a bludgeoned Jewish people left for dead” into a vibrant homeland. “The people of Israel have come home, never to be uprooted again,” he said.
It was impossible to hear Netanyahu’s speech, and not feel sorrow for Israel and sorrow for the United States as my country gradually lets go of a leadership role that has benefited countries around the world for many years despite “progressive” historians’ claims to the contrary. It’s worse when you realize that, despite lessons of the past, we seem doomed to repeat errors in judgment more often than we should.
As for Power, if that was the ambassador in the audience, she seemed surprised by what the prime minister was saying. That didn’t surprise me at all.
(Commentary by Kay B. Day/Oct. 1, 2013)
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