In a historic address this morning before a joint session of Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu re-emphasized the strength of the America-Israel alliance, thanked President Barack Obama for the support he gives Israel, described the threat Iran poses to Israel, the United States, and the world, and made a strong case against the emerging nuclear deal that the P5+1 is poised to make with Iran.
Netanyahu began his speech by greeting the leaders of both parties and reiterating the strong ties that exist between the United States and Israel.
The remarkable alliance between Israel and the United States has always been above politics. It must always remain above politics.
Because America and Israel, we share a common destiny, the destiny of promised lands that cherish freedom and offer hope. Israel is grateful for the support of American — of America’s people and of America’s presidents, from Harry Truman to Barack Obama.
Netanyahu praised the help that Obama has given Israel, emphasizing three instances where the president’s help was not as well known: When Israel was fighting a huge fire in the Carmel Forest in 2010, when Israel’s embassy in Cairo was under attack in 2011, and when Israel received more missile interceptors to fight Hamas’s terror rockets last year.
“Some of what the president has done for Israel might never be known, because it touches on some of the most sensitive and strategic issues that arise between an American president and an Israeli prime minister,” Netanyahu added
After the expressing his gratitude to the United States, Netanyahu established the threat to Israel from Iran by comparing to the historical threat posed by Haman in biblical times:
We’re an ancient people. In our nearly 4,000 years of history, many have tried repeatedly to destroy the Jewish people. Tomorrow night, on the Jewish holiday of Purim, we’ll read the Book of Esther. We’ll read of a powerful Persian viceroy named Haman, who plotted to destroy the Jewish people some 2,500 years ago. But a courageous Jewish woman, Queen Esther, exposed the plot and gave for the Jewish people the right to defend themselves against their enemies.
The plot was foiled. Our people were saved.
Today the Jewish people face another attempt by yet another Persian potentate to destroy us. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei spews the oldest hatred, the oldest hatred of anti-Semitism with the newest technology. He tweets that Israel must be annihilated — he tweets. You know, in Iran, there isn’t exactly free Internet. But he tweets in English that Israel must be destroyed.
But Netanyahu explained that the threat against Israel and the Jews as expressed by Iran and its proxies is not limited to Jews, saying that “Iran’s regime is not merely a Jewish problem, any more than the Nazi regime was merely a Jewish problem.”
After the 1979 Iranian revolution, Iran’s foreign policy as expressed by the regime’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei, became to “export the revolution throughout the world.” Netanyahu contrasted the vision of Iran’s revolutionary government with America’s founding principles: “America’s founding document promises life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Iran’s founding document pledges death, tyranny, and the pursuit of jihad. ”
Netanyahu described the threat posed by Iran, as well of its support of Hamas in Gaza and of Hezbollah in both Syria and Lebanon, as “three tentacles of terror” aimed at Israel. But Iran poses a threat to more than just Israel.
Backed by Iran, Assad is slaughtering Syrians. Back by Iran, Shiite militias are rampaging through Iraq. Back by Iran, Houthis are seizing control of Yemen, threatening the strategic straits at the mouth of the Red Sea. Along with the Straits of Hormuz, that would give Iran a second choke-point on the world’s oil supply.
Just last week, near Hormuz, Iran carried out a military exercise blowing up a mock U.S. aircraft carrier. That’s just last week, while they’re having nuclear talks with the United States. But unfortunately, for the last 36 years, Iran’s attacks against the United States have been anything but mock. And the targets have been all too real.
After cataloging, Iran’s aggression, Netanyahu warned, “If Iran’s aggression is left unchecked, more will surely follow.”
After describing the Iranian threat, Netanyahu warned that enlisting Iran’s help in fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is a false choice, saying that “when it comes to Iran and ISIS, the enemy of your enemy is your enemy.”
Netanyahu then described the weaknesses of the emerging deal between Iran and the West, focusing on two major concessions being discussed.
Absent a dramatic change, we know for sure that any deal with Iran will include two major concessions to Iran.
The first major concession would leave Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure, providing it with a short break-out time to the bomb. Break-out time is the time it takes to amass enough weapons-grade uranium or plutonium for a nuclear bomb. …
But the second major concession creates an even greater danger that Iran could get to the bomb by keeping the deal. Because virtually all the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program will automatically expire in about a decade.
Netanyahu argued that given the nuclear infrastructure that Iran would be allowed to keep under the terms of the emerging deal, “Iran’s break-out time would be very short—about a year by U.S. assessment, even shorter by Israel’s.” Even the inspections that have been promised to keep Iran’s known nuclear program in check have a weakness: “Inspectors document violations; they don’t stop them.” Even worse, Iran, like North Korea before it, has on three occasions kicked the inspectors out of the country and turned off the cameras trained on their nuclear facilities. Despite a similar agreement to open itself up to international inspectors, North Korea nonetheless developed nuclear weapons ,and it is now feared “that within five years North Korea could have an arsenal of 100 nuclear bombs.”
Despite the interim agreement, Netanyahu asserted that Iran has played “a pretty good game of hide-and-cheat” with inspectors, as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported yesterday. Netanyahu summed up his concerns with the first American concession.
Right now, Iran could be hiding nuclear facilities that we don’t know about, the U.S. and Israel. As the former head of inspections for the IAEA said in 2013, he said, “If there’s no undeclared installation today in Iran, it will be the first time in 20 years that it doesn’t have one.” Iran has proven time and again that it cannot be trusted. And that’s why the first major concession is a source of great concern. It leaves Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure and relies on inspectors to prevent a breakout. That concession creates a real danger that Iran could get to the bomb by violating the deal.
In the case of the second concession, the sunset clause, which will reportedly end all restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in ten years, the problem is that it “creates an even greater danger that Iran could get to the bomb by keeping the deal.” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has already proclaimed his nation’s intent to have 190,000 centrifuges, which “could make the fuel for an entire nuclear arsenal and this in a matter of weeks, once it makes that decision.” If there are no constraints on Iran’s program, then Iran would no longer be limited in the number of centrifuges it operates.
My long-time friend, John Kerry, Secretary of State, confirmed last week that Iran could legitimately possess that massive centrifuge capacity when the deal expires.
Now I want you to think about that. The foremost sponsor of global terrorism could be weeks away from having enough enriched uranium for an entire arsenal of nuclear weapons and this with full international legitimacy….
That’s why this deal is so bad. It doesn’t block Iran’s path to the bomb; it paves Iran’s path to the bomb.
Addressing the assumption that Iran in ten years will moderate its actions, Netanyahu said:
Well, I disagree. I don’t believe that Iran’s radical regime will change for the better after this deal. This regime has been in power for 36 years, and its voracious appetite for aggression grows with each passing year. This deal … would only whet Iran’s appetite for more.
Would Iran be less aggressive when sanctions are removed and its economy is stronger? If Iran is gobbling up four countries right now while it’s under sanctions, how many more countries will Iran devour when sanctions are lifted? Would Iran fund less terrorism when it has mountains of cash with which to fund more terrorism?
The Prime Minister argued that the restriction on Iran must not be governed by time, but by Iran’s behavior, and spelled out three conditions that Iran must be required to fulfill before being allowed an unlimited nuclear program.
First, stop its aggression against its neighbors in the Middle East.
Second, stop supporting terrorism around the world.
And third, stop threatening to annihilate my country, Israel, the one and only Jewish state.
Netanyahu addressed the objection that Iranian nuclear knowledge can’t be unlearned.
My friends, what about the argument that there’s no alternative to this deal, that Iran’s nuclear know-how cannot be erased, that its nuclear program is so advanced that the best we can do is delay the inevitable, which is essentially what the proposed deal seeks to do?
Well, nuclear know-how without nuclear infrastructure doesn’t get you very much. A racecar driver without a car can’t drive. A pilot without a plan can’t fly. Without thousands of centrifuges, tons of enriched uranium or heavy water facilities, Iran can’t make nuclear weapons.
Towards this end, Netanyahu insisted the world must demand that Iran’s nuclear infrastructure be “rolled back” under threat of renewed sanctions, and that the West shouldn’t fear Iran walking away from negotiations, because “they need the deal a lot more than you do.”
He also pushed back against the charge that the alternative to the currently discussed deal is war, arguing that “the alternative to this bad deal is a much better deal,” one that would include dismantling Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, increasing its breakout time ,and keeping the deal in place “until Iran’s aggression ends.”
In the end, Netanyahu, citing Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, who was in the audience, made a plea to learn “the lessons of history…not to sacrifice the future for the present; not to ignore aggression in the hopes of gaining an illusory peace.”
Netanyahu asked the world to respond to his plea, but that if they failed to do so, “even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand.” He added a thought, echoing the sentiment with which he began his speech: “But I know that Israel does not stand alone. I know that America stands with Israel.”
A complete transcript is available at The Washington Post.
[Photo: The New York Times / YouTube ]