Intoning the mantra “never again,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Monday night in an impassioned speech to AIPAC that “as prime minister of Israel, I will never let my people live in the shadow of annihilation.”
Just hours after meeting US President Barack Obama for some three hours, much of the time spent discussing Iran, Netanyahu adopted a tough tone toward the Islamic Republic, drawing on the tragic history of the Holocaust to argue that the world, and the Jewish people, cannot “accept a world in which the Ayatollahs have atomic bombs.”
While expressing appreciation for Obama’s efforts to impose tougher sanctions, he said that Tehran’s “nuclear march goes on.”
“We’ve waited for diplomacy to work,” he said. “We’ve waited for sanctions to work. None of us can afford to wait much longer.”
“We are determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu declared. “We leave all options on the table. And containment is definitely not an option. The Jewish state will not allow those seeking our destruction to possess the means to achieve that goal.”
While forcefully asserting Israel’s right to defend itself, and spelling out the dangers Iran poses the world, Netanyahu stopped well short of providing any indication of how or when Israel might act.
“Every day, I open the papers and read about these red lines and these time lines,” Netanyahu said in reference to weeks of speculation on differences between the US and Israel about how to deal with Iran. “I read about what Israel has decided to do or what Israel might do. Well, I’m not going to talk to you about what Israel will do or will not do. I never talk about that.”
Instead, the speech focused on Israel’s historical imperative and justification to act if it felt the need to do so.
Netanyahu said he has warned against a nuclear Iran for 15 years, the international community has tried diplomacy to stop it for the last decade, and the world has imposed sanctions over the last six years. But none of it has worked, he stated.
Netanyahu chastised unnamed “commentators” for saying that stopping Iran from getting a bomb is more dangerous then letting it have one. “They say that a military confrontation with Iran would undermine the efforts already underway, that it would be ineffective, and that it would provoke even more vindictive action by Iran,” he said, adding that he has heard, and even read those arguments before.
Then, dramatically, he displayed copies of an exchange of letters between the World Jewish Congress and the US War Department at the height of the Holocaust in 1944 that implored the US government to bomb Auschwitz.
Netanyahu read from the letters: “Such an operation could be executed only by diverting considerable air support essential to the success of our forces elsewhere," he read, “and in any case would be of such doubtful efficacy that it would not warrant the use of our resources. And here’s the most remarkable sentence of all,” Netanyahu said. “And I quote, ‘Such an effort might provoke even more vindictive action by the Germans.’”
“Think about that, ‘even more vindictive action, than the Holocaust,” Netanyahu declared. “My Friends, this is not 1944. The American government today is different. You heard it in President Obama’s speech yesterday. But here’s my point. The Jewish people are also different. Today we have a state of our own. The purpose of the Jewish state is to secure the Jewish future. That is why Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat…”
Netanyahu reiterated what he said earlier in public statements before meeting Obama: “We must always remain the masters of our fate.”
Netanyahu made mention of the upcoming Purim holiday, saying that in every generation there are those who wish to destroy the Jewish people. But, he added, “In this generation we are blessed to live in a time when there is a Jewish state capable of defending the Jewish people.” Those words were met by a thunderous ovation.