The Substance of Netanyahu's Speech has been lost over Concerns about Form
I’ll start this blog expressing my opinion why Bibi’s Netanyahu’s speech to Congress on March 3 is justified, needed, and should be a wakeup call to all Americans that Israel faces an existential threat. Many groups have vowed to destroy and obliterate Israel over the years and recent threats by ISIL make it all the more real. So, the issue is whether the global importance of the speech outweighs any issues about how it was setup by the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, and Ron Dermer, Israeli ambassador to the U.S.
Yes, the scheduling of the speech without consulting President Obama was a mistake. I’m sure Boehner and Dermer, and Netanyahu for that matter, believed the President would not go along. Still, an attempt should have been made to consult with him. The speech could have been scheduled even if he was against it. That would have been the more honorable way to go. Boehner could have said he truly believes the need for the speech as a wake-up call to Americans is more important than President Obama’s political concerns about swaying Israeli voters.
Some have criticized the move and impugned Netanyahu’s motives, including Democrats, U.S. citizens, and Israelis, coming just two weeks before Israeli elections on March 17. However, it should be pointed out that the speech was timed to coincide with the annual meeting of the Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on March 1-3. Some criticize Netanyahu for focusing too much attention on security issues and not enough on domestic issues at home. They feel the timing of the speech was motivated by drawing the country’s attention to security issues in the run up to the election.
I have a different take on Netanyahu’s motives. I truly feel he believes a nuclear Iran is an existential threat to Israel. With the deadline for a deal with Iran coming later in March, Netanyahu believes that Israel’s security will be compromised by striking a deal that imposes constraints on Iran in developing nuclear energy that has loopholes. Moreover, there is absolutely no reason to believe that Iran won’t go about its nuclear development program without restraint even if a deal is inked. When was the last time Iran did something trustworthy? You can rationalize the deal as a good one by playing the “trust but verify” card. Again, the verification process is bound to be met by delays on Iran’s part, non-cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and blatant lies about the purpose of its enrichment process as being for peaceful means. Let us not forget that Iran and U.S. negotiators have tried to negotiate a deal for 12-years!
Trust is an essential ethical principle in dealing with others especially when global security is at stake. The naivety of the Obama administration and, indeed, all of Europe is scary. Some have likened the appeasement approach that underlies relations with Iran on the security issue and Putin's expansionist philosophy in Russia as a failure waiting to happen. Others have called Netanyahu the Winston Churchill of our time. Churchill warned the world in the 1930s about Nazi Germany. Had the world powers listened, World War II might have been avoided.
When President Obama declared in his State of the Union address that Iran has “halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material,” the cynics had a field day. It harkened back to his comments about ISIS as a “JV” team. Ironically, Obama, in his own way, is doing the same thing as Netanyahu in focusing his last two years in office on issues of importance to the liberal left such as immigration, minimum wages and equity pay, and creating executive orders without any input from Congress. These are important issues but so are those of national security, which are downplayed by the administration. We can’t wish away the threat from radical Islam.
Talking about form over substance, Obama seems to be passionate about the issues he cares about but not national security issues and fighting the global jihadi threat. Also, downplaying the real threat from a nuclear Iran is shortsighted. It’s not only that Iran would be able to develop a nuclear bomb, it’s even more concerning that such technology and the bomb itself may fall into the hands of those who hate Israel and our western way of life including our shared values of religious freedom and liberty for all.
I am dismayed that 55% of Israelis say the speech before Congress should have been delayed. I am disheartened that some in Congress and, moreover, American Jews feel the speech at best was ill-timed and, at worst, an interference in a political process with the intent of swaying Israeli voters towards keeping Netanyahu in office. American Jews in particular should know that ignoring the threat doesn’t work. Wishing it away is a fool's journey. Hoping against hope is naivety at its worst and failed prior to and during WWII and will in today’s world where beheadings, burnings, raping and slaughtering people are considered to be sanctioned by one’s religious beliefs. As Jews, it’s time to stand up and be counted about the existential threat to Israel.
Netanyahu's desire to speak before Congress should be viewed in light of the 6 million Jews killed in WWII, which represented about 2/3 of the Jewish population before the Nazi's final solution. Moreover, in Israel today there are about 6 million Jews with about 2 million additional Arabs that make up the 8 million population in that country. These numbers are a stark reminder of just how fragile the very existence of Israel is today in a world where they are surrounded by terrorist groups including al-Qaeda, HAMAS, Hezbollah, and ISIS (not to mention Iran), all of whom have avowed to kill Jews.
Americans are vulnerable as well as we learned on 9/11/01, the worst terrorist attack in the world by far. In that horrific event, Islamist extremists killed 2,993 of our citizens and injured 8,900 more. Since then we've witnessed the Fort Hood shootings on November 5, 2009, when Army Major Nidal Hasan gunned down 13 and injured 32. Then, eleven years to the day, our Consulate was attacked in Benghazi, Libya on 9/11/12 where four died and 11 were injured. Europe has been directly attacked recently and Jews have been targeted in Belgium, France and Denmark, to name a few. Islamic extremism has now infected Arab countries as well with the burning alive of a Jordanian pilot.
I’ve written before that we are in World War III. It started in earnest in 2004, when the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an Islamist insurgent group active in both Iraq and Syria, pledged allegiance to al Qaeda. The extremist group believes in the strict enforcement of Shariah law including imposing it on the infidels in the western world and elsewhere. Summing up its aims in a June 2013 audio statement, the group’s current leader, Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, vowed to erase the “Western imposed border with Syria” and called on his followers to “tear apart” the governments in both countries and their regional backers. Ultimately, ISIL seeks to create an Islamic emirate from where they would launch a global holy war. Their goal is to export jihad everywhere.
Make no mistake that we are in a holy war as evidenced by the killing of Jews targeted at a kosher market in Paris and a synagogue in Copenhagen. It is a holy war, as evidenced by the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians on a beach in Libya, which has brought ISIS to the doorstep of Europe. Obama can’t even use the words radical Islam so how in the world are we to effectively ward off the cancer that is growing. How do we fight and win against an enemy that doesn’t care if they are murdered and has no conscience about massacring the infidels. We can’t use our values to rationalize how we deal with them. They don’t play by our rules.
Netanyahu is doing the world a service by coming to the U.S. to confront the imminent wrong-headed agreement with Iran. Not only for its own potential to have nuclear bombs but because they may fall into the hands of the wrong groups that have sworn their hatred towards us and their goal to impose Shariah law on the world.
Wake up Americans, Israelis, and American Jews to the real threat that peace-loving nations face. We shouldn’t allow a questionably timed speech and the way it was set up to deflect from the real issue at hand. The substance of what Netanyahu will say far outweighs the manner in which the speech before Congress was scheduled.
Blog posted by Dr. Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on February 24, 2015. Professor Mintz is on the faculty of the Orfalea College of Business at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He also blogs at: www.workplaceethicsadvice.com.