Sturm: I witnessed a speech that may change history
“All the world’s a stage,” Shakespeare penned, and last week I was fortunate to behold a performance for the ages, one that moved its standing-room-only audience.
Sitting in the gallery above a joint session of Congress and feeling history’s weight at our civilization’s fateful crossroads, I watched Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu enter the House chamber to thunderous bipartisan applause before delivering a gracious, credible and consequential speech.
Defending our common heritage and interests, Netanyahu received 43 ovations from ideologically diverse lawmakers, reflecting our countries’ durable bond — for which he expressed fervent gratitude — and our mutual desire for lasting peace and security.
In an era starving for leadership, moral clarity and courage, Netanyahu served a feast. With the Iranian nuclear-negotiation deadline looming, he implored us to Think Again about the reported concession-laden deal that would make a nuclear-armed power out of the planet’s most lethal terrorist state — the one jailing journalists, hanging gays, stoning women, dominating sovereign nations and inciting violence responsible for American deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Speaking before legislators entrusted with upholding America’s founding ethic, Netanyahu contrasted it with the Iranian theocracy’s principles — “death, tyranny and the pursuit of jihad” — disputing the notion that the “Death to America” regime could become a responsible power among nations.
Of the Iranian theocracy’s apocalyptic mindset, Bernard Lewis, one of the great scholars of Islam, observed, “Mutually assured destruction is not a deterrent — it’s an inducement.”
Hence Netanyahu’s warning: “The greatest danger facing our world is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons. To defeat ISIS and let Iran get nuclear weapons would be to win the battle but lose the war. We can’t let that happen,” he declared to strong applause.
Despite promising repeatedly to prevent Iran’s radical regime from ever obtaining nuclear weapons, the Obama administration is reportedly near an agreement that would allow just that. The administration also aims to skirt Senate ratification, extraordinary given the far-reaching international security implications.
In addition to accepting Iran’s massive nuclear infrastructure and the region’s largest ballistic-missile inventory, it ratifies what even the U.N. wouldn’t: Iran’s uranium-enrichment rights. Most worrisome, the proposed deal lifts restrictions after only 10 years, allowing Iran’s unconditional development of nuclear weapons and undoubtedly sparking a nuclear arms race in a great tinderbox.
Rather than averting war, the deal advances it. Immunized from internal revolution and external challenges, would Iran “fund less terrorism when it has mountains of cash,” Netanyahu asked, or “change for the better when it can enjoy the best of both worlds: aggression abroad, prosperity at home?”
Herein lies Netanyahu’s essential truth: The free world isn’t stuck with only two choices — this deal or war — as some argue. A better deal can be negotiated with Iran’s vulnerable regime, a deal that protects the world’s security interests by denying Iran an easy path to the bomb and a deal with which Israel and its Arab neighbors “could live, literally,” as Netanyahu put it.
“If Iran wants to be treated like a normal country,” Netanyahu proclaimed, “let it act like a normal country.” Until it stops inciting regional violence, supporting global terrorism and threatening Israel’s annihilation, he argued, it must remain isolated.
Obama’s former Iran adviser, Dennis Ross, wrote in USA Today that Netanyahu “made a strong case” about why the potential agreement with Iran “is a very bad deal,” calling on his ex-boss to answer Netanyahu’s concerns. Disagreeing with Obama, Ross contended that Netanyahu did offer “the alternative of insisting on better terms and increasing the pressure on the Iranians until a more credible agreement is reached.”
To Mideast allies scrambling to counter radical Islam, America’s perceived indifference to their security interests amid our engagement with Iran’s expansionist theocracy prompts this frightening concern: Does America respect its enemies more than its friends?
Rarely have we diverged so dramatically from America’s bipartisan peace-through-strength tradition, best articulated by President Kennedy: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
That’s what struck me as I stood to applaud Netanyahu’s pledge, “Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand.”
Upon leaving, I noticed with hope the marble relief of Maimonides, the Jewish philosopher who said, “You must accept the truth from whatever source it comes.” Maimonides’ profile is one of 22 sages adorning the gallery wall whose ideas underpin our democracy. Each looks toward the relief of Moses that faces the podium, above which is etched, “In God we trust.”
Think Again — may the truths reverberating around our leaders inspire in them Moses-like determination to deliver us to the land they promised, free of Iranian nukes.
Melanie Sturm lives in Aspen. She reminds readers to Think Again. You might change your mind. She welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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