Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Speech

I hope many of your were able to listen to Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech today before a joint meeting of Congress.  I also hope my Berean colleagues will weigh in with their comments on the speech and the context for it.  As you may know, Prime Minister Netanyahu was invited by Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner to speak to that body.  President Obama was almost immediately and vehemently opposed to the Prime Minister’s coming and speech.  About 50 members of Congress (out of 535 total, Senate and House) were also opposed.  The opponents were quite vocal and sometimes a bit more than that.  Netanyahu came and gave his speech today, March 2, 2015.

My take on the speech may not be perfect, but it is after all my own analysis.  First, the Prime Minister laid out a clear and compelling argument against what he knows about Obama’s peace plan with Iran—the principal point of contention here.  He marshalled his facts well, and logically made his case.  It was passionate but not overly emotional nor rhetorical.  In summary the plan, as he knows it (and Obama did not let him know any details—and still has not) is dangerous for the survival of the State of Israel because it gives away too much (for example, after ten years Iran would be allowed a nuclear bomb—as it stands now) and it is non-enforceable in effect.  If that is what Obama finally proposes, then the Prime Minister is correct.  And not only that, but it would also be dangerous for the Middle East, for the United States and for the world.

I am not suggesting that the United States needs to get entangled in a war with Iran.  But neither can it sit idly by as Iran, a very hostile nation, does whatever it wishes.  Moreover, if one accepts that it is possible to “defend others” legitimately, when they are threatened, then do we not owe Israel aid of some kind?  This would be a just war principle that has long been accepted.  And Israel is after all the only truly democratic nation is the entire region—that counts for something.

I have tried to listen carefully to the ideas of the President on this because I do believe it is worth talking as long as one can.  Beneficial results might emerge.  But Iran has had a long (36 years) history of acting aggressively and sponsoring terrorism.  It has not been trustworthy with the United Nations.  And it continues to vow to destroy Israel and Jews.  That is not a record to be trusted.

Prime Minister Netanyahu did not suggest there should be no negotiations and no peace plan.  He explicitly said he wanted something if possible.  But he did not want the current plan by the President.  Perhaps the United States might want to actually consult Israel a bit more.  Perhaps also Congress may decide to take matters into its own hands an restrict the President’s ability to possibly sell Israel out.  Unfortunately, it has looked more and more like the President simply does not like Israel all that much, or at least does not want to appear that he does.  That doesn’t show very strong leadership.  But worse, his ideas seem to be skewed against Israel and for other Middle Eastern nations that oppose Israel.  I am not in a position—no one is—to analyze the inner motivation for his ideas.  But that doesn’t matter.  One doesn’t have to know why the President is doing what he is doing to know that is not a good deal.

One more point.  Many Christians view Israel as a “favored” nation be virtue of being founded by a chosen people—the Jews (see Genesis 12 and 15).  My purpose here is not to get into the theological discussion on that issue, simply because even if one did not believe Israel is specially favored by God, the deal at hand is nevertheless a bad one.

18 thoughts on “Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Speech”

  1. I did watch the speech and thought it very good. One important fact to clarify… not all of those who declined to attend did so out of spite for Israel. Some even said they supported Israel. At least one planned to still watch the speech via TV.

    That said, there is no exact way to know how strong Israel’s support, as a State, in Congress really is and how much of the rhetoric from some, particularly on the left, is genuinely anti-Israel or merely anti-Netanyahu.

    Support for Israel within Congress at least appears to be strong based on the applause, and that brings up an interesting argument. Some people point to Obama’s seemingly hostile attitude toward Israel and echo the Biblical warnings of what happens when a nation “curses” Israel (“I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you”). How does this warning translate to a republic’s attitude when different branches of the government appear to treat Israel differently? How would that appear in God’s eyes? Does the President’s treatment matter more? Does Congress’s? Or is it even possible to answer that question?

  2. Hi Marc!

    I hope you know how much I love almost everything you write (and I share a lot of your posts on my facebook page).

    I do have a couple questions about this article though. You stated:

    “Moreover, if one accepts that it is possible to “defend others” legitimately, when they are threatened, then do we not owe Israel aid of some kind? This would be a just war principle that has long been accepted. And Israel is after all the only truly democratic nation is [sic] the entire region—that counts for something.”

    What does “‘defending others’ legitimately” mean in a Biblical worldview?
    -Does it mean individuals rising to the cause and taking a stand for those them deem threatened?
    -Does it mean congress declaring war on a nation because they are threatening another nation that they particularly like?
    -Does it means something else?

    In other words, what is the aid that we owe (that is, are morally obligated to provide) to the Israel nation?

    I’m confused because just prior to the above statement you said you’re not suggesting the U.S. get entangled in a war with Iran. So in that regard, without going to war, what would “‘defending others’ legitimately” mean, from a Biblical worldview?

    Also, regarding Israel being the only truly democratic nation in the region and that it should count for something – what should that count for?

    From a Biblical worldview how should another nation’s government structure determine whether or not a person’s own nation interferes with or comes to their aid?

    For instance, let’s say there existed a democratic Muslim nation, where 99% of the individuals truly wanted to live under Sharia Law (for the record, I don’t think this would ever be the case). And a secular nation with 53% professing Christians were going to war with that nation for some reason (let’s even assume it’s not a good reason).

    Should the U.S. then come to the aid of the Muslim nation (because they’re a democratic nation)? Or should they back the 53% “Christian” nation (because their values more closely (?) resemble the values of the U.S.)? Should they stay out of it unless there is a direct threat to the U.S. itself? Or is it something different?

    I’m certainly not trying to be contentious; I’m just trying to seek clarification. From my perspective, apart from the theological position of defending Israel because they’re the chosen people of God, I don’t understand why the U.S. has a moral obligation (as a nation) to pick sides on the international stage if not being directly threatened ourselves.

    Thank you so much for your writing and your ministry!

  3. Yes, Israel is a democratic nation, but it is also one that has committed and arguably still commits human rights violations. Which imo are wrong (I know some would disagree).

    I am not saying that Iran is any better, and that Israel deserves all or even some of the blame for the hostilities.

    I AM saying this: I tire of Americans and especially Christian conservatives giving blind, almost blank-check-like support to Israel based on a few verses taken entirely out of their contexts, and also judging nations according to double standards. As if acts that cause others to suffer are less bad, if not ok, if a non-Muslim does them.

    I also tire of the implication–and Netanyahu (through his own words)is part of the blame for this–that any
    criticism of Israel for its MORAL failings is tantamount to anti-Semitism. Many Jews in this nation and around the world criticize the nation for its human rights abuses, understanding that the traditional values of Judaism, and also human dignity–are betrayed by Zionism.

    Perhaps the WH is confronted with the painful reality that the upcoming election is between two evils, and the hope is that the lesser one wins. Perhaps the WH also recognizes that Israel can defend itself quite capably against Iran–despite BN’s fearmongering–and that it does not need the American taxpayer’s gifts forever.

    1. Might I ask which verses you are referring to and how specifically you believe they have been taken out of context?

      You are correct that an evil act is no less evil if committed by a non-Muslim and no more evil if committed by a Muslim. But context and intention in war do matter. A Hamas rocket deliberately fired at Israeli civilians is, IMO, wrong. An Israeli airstrike attempting to kill Hamas terrorists but which accidentally kills civilians, while certainly tragic and regrettable, IMO, is not wrong. There is a difference between deliberate human rights violations and the collateral damage of war and if there is to be blamed assigned for such abuses might I suggest that Hamas, Hezbollah, and other terrorists are much more to blame for Palestinian deaths by provoking responses from Israel and deliberately setting up civilians to die in Israeli reprisals. I not saying Israel is entirely blameless, no nation on this earth has ever been, is currently, or ever will be entirely perfect or blameless in this area, and criticism of policies or the results of actions by the government of Israel is certainly not anti-Antisemitism. But in a debate between Iran or Israel over which is morally superior to the other, in my personal opinion, Israel wins decisively.

      1. Iran is more evil than Israel, of course. No one would seriously question that.

        But it is also true that Israel has committed atrocities against the Palestinians (and not all of it is due to collateral damage).

        The way I see it, it is NOT right to take someone else’s land by force.

        It is NOT right to steal ground water.

        It is NOT right to build “settlements” on lands stolen from ancient owners.

        It is NOT right to deny full citizenship based on religion or ethnicity.

        Do I need to go over the gory details in that airstrike on the Gaza powerplant?

        Israel of 2015 is not the Israel of the past. Under Likud’s unremitting ultra-Zionisnt “values” Israel has morphed from being heroic defenders of Western values into something that is no longer a force for good in the world.

        I can see why President Obama might not trust Netanyahu. Would you?

  4. Please do go over the details of the Gaza power plant. Like the detail Israel would not have been attacking Gaza in the first place if Hamas stopped attacking them, like the fact that it is not proven that Israel even deliberately targeted the plant, and even if they did, power plants are certainly in my opinion military targets. It might cause hardships for civilians, but then their own so-called leaders were the ones that brought it on them, Israel did not simply decide “today is a good day to bomb Gaza”. The onus is on the Palestinians to not provoke Israel, not visa-versa. Perhaps if they abandoned militancy the sometimes harsh and regrettable measures they have suffered would lessen and eventually disappear.

    “The terror of a king is like the growling of a lion; whoever provokes him to anger forfeits his life.” – Proverbs 20:2.

    1. And just a supplemental question:

      “I can see why President Obama might not trust Netanyahu. Do you?”

      When I put myself into Obama’s shoes and view things from the perspective of his ideology, yes I can see why. Obama and Netanyahu are opposites. Obama is left-wing, Netanyahu, as you pointed out, is right-wing. Their goals and policies will collide. But let me turn that question around. Can you see why Netanyahu might not trust Iran? I do.

      And here is the main question: Why would Obama trust Iran over Israel? Maybe he doesn’t actually, but his actions speak to that possibility.

      1. “Please do go over the details of the Gaza power plant. Like the detail Israel would not have been attacking Gaza in the first place if Hamas stopped attacking them”

        So according to your math, two wrongs = a right. (?)

        And the right to self-defense is absolute (?)

        The wrongs are not remotely comparable. Most of the deaths, at least according to one report, were civilians. Men, women, and children.

        I reject those values. I am disappointed that you seem to accept them.

        “Obama and Netanyahu are opposites. Obama is left-wing, Netanyahu, as you pointed out, is right-wing.”

        LOL, the world is not that black-and-white. Thinking of world leaders and their complicated challenges in such dichotomous terms is laughably simplistic, the kind of worldview one would find in comic books or professional wrestling.

        I lived four years in the Cedarville bubble where I received only one side of reality. Trust me, the real world is much more complicated outside of Greene County!

      2. If you think I was arguing that two wrongs make a right you are mistaken. You have assumed that I consider what Israel did to be a wrong, which I do not. When I say Israel’s actions have regrettable consequences that does not mean I am equating it to wrongdoing. I would suggest research on the actions that the IDF takes to minimize civilian casualties AND looking at the claims, some even by members of Hamas itself, of how the terrorists actually manipulate some of those methods to create propaganda to use against Israel.

        “LOL, the world is not that black-and-white. Thinking of world leaders and their complicated challenges in such dichotomous terms is laughably simplistic, the kind of worldview one would find in comic books or professional wrestling.”

        You talk about complicated challenges and world leaders but yet it seems you have placed Israel’s decisions into the very dichotomous terms you deem laughable and if you took from that that I view the world in such a way, think again. I was pointing out that because they are from opposite ends of the political spectrum it is natural that they will have opposing views and policies. It doesn’t mean there is any sort of light-dark dichotomy. UK PM David Cameron is a conservative, yet he and Obama seem to have a good working relationship, and Cameron was even here in the US trying to stump support from Obama on his Iran negotiations. President Bush was on the right side of the spectrum and Tony Blair was from the left side, yet they had an excellent rapport with each other. Perhaps I could have chosen better words, but let me assure you I am fully versed in the complicated nature of this planet.

        “I lived four years in the Cedarville bubble where I received only one side of reality. Trust me, the real world is much more complicated outside of Greene County!”

        Do tell! What exactly was that supposed to mean anyway?

      3. “If you think I was arguing that two wrongs make a right you are mistaken. You have assumed that I consider what Israel did to be a wrong, which I do not. When I say Israel’s actions have regrettable consequences that does not mean I am equating it to wrongdoing.”

        I apologize for that mistake.

        I see a conflict of values between you and me.

        I consider intentional acts[and there is strong evidence that at least some of the attacks on civilians were done on purpose or at least done by choice with weapons that were insufficiently precise] that intentionally hurt or kill civilians as immoral. You do not.

        You are free to believe as you wish. I hate seeing apparently rational people defending immoral acts. But that is a price one must pay for living in a world that is more moral than it used to be but is still far too immoral for my taste.

      4. My acceptance or not of intentional attacks on non-combatants is not absolute. I disagree with having a strict standard of what is right or wrong in war because sometimes the situations are different. I also believe that in war, some acts which would be considered immoral in any other situation, are sometimes regrettably necessary. So I would not agree with your statement that I do not consider the intentional targeting of civilians as immoral. And in certain circumstances, an immoral action does not necessarily equate, IMO, to a wrong action, particularly when the desired outcome is taken into account (but to be clear, that does not mean I support an unqualified argument about ends justifying the means).

        A good example of this is the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Dropping the atomic bombs killed hundreds of thousands, most civilians, and were dreadful actions to take. I would even say it was an immoral act. But I also do not believe it was a wrong act because the majority consensus, both before and after the bombings, was that they were necessary to bring the war to a quicker end, and thus while casualties were horrific in the short-term, the consensus was that long-term, had the war continued, the casualties on both sides would have been far more horrific.

        With Israel, what is their desired outcome? Their desired outcome is that their citizens would be safe from rocket attacks and suicide bombings and that Hamas, and those who support such measures, would either be put out of power or eliminated. Trying to destroy Hamas’s ability to attack them in the first place, therefore negating the need for Israel to counter, is the end goal. The great problem is when Hamas hides among the civilian population it necessitates using force in civilian areas. This is why civilian casualties occur and why it often seems like civilians are deliberately being targeted, not because Israel is intentionally doing so, but because Hamas is intentionally making it so for the very purpose of drawing the ire of others toward Israel.

        Please do not mistake my reluctant acceptance of such tactics as necessary to prevent greater tragedy, whether it be the atomic bombs or Israel in Gaza, as an absolute moral endorsement. I simply do not think that a hard line can be drawn where moral always equals right and immoral always equals wrong.

        Have a nice day :)

  5. Hi Everyone:
    I am responding to both Adam and Jeff. Let me take Adam first. When I used the term “defending others” I was referring to one justification for a traditional just war action. I am not NECESSARILY agreeing that that is completely legitimate, but I am not actually making an argument for or against–just an “if…then” argument. It is traditional but that doesn’t automatically make it biblical. As for Israel being the only democratic nation, that does NOT mean they are always right, but only that in “pragmatic” terms they represent the best alternative. I would like to be idealistic here, but I can’t. Nor do I believe the US should always support Israel in everything it does. So Israel is a stabilizing influence in the Middle East, not a perfect polity–and the political structure only makes a difference insofar as Israel is able to actually stabilize the region, or as other nations could do the same. I realize I am playing pragmatic politics, but there is a place for prudence that is not addressed in detail by Scripture. I don’t think we have an eternal moral obligation, “Israel right or wrong.” But it is the best we can do, unless other nations change. By the way for some Christians, it is a moral obligation, but THIS Israel is a complex situation. It was not founded as a biblical people, it had no commitment to biblical Judaism, it was actually founded by Zionist Socialists who were rather secular Jews. That bothers me, and it gives me pause in supporting the nation in anything it wants to do (or has done).

    This shades also into Jeff’s issues. I do not argue that everything Israel does has been right or just. Its history, pre- and post-founding, is checkered. The pre-founding groups were even sometimes terrorists against the British. And it has sometimes committed unjust acts against other groups. But we also know that the propaganda has been consistently turned against Israel as to its actions, as if there was never a just reason to do what it has done. Nor do I have all the facts. Now some of the actions I believe cannot be condoned under any circumstances, But others are wrapped in fog of factual uncertainty–both sides have asserted their own set of facts. So we do have to sort all that out, Jeff. I am not claiming to KNOW those facts. IF they are as you would have them, then the actions were unjust. But if not, well… Now let’s get tot the rub. Despite its flaws, Israel is the most stable nation in the region. And it is also true that most of the nations (and radical groups in them) around Israel are sworn enemies, and they were sworn even before its founding. They simply hated Jews–a long-standing problem in that region and elsewhere. Would you suggest the US simply abandon Israel? Moreover, as I said above, the foreign relations issues do sometimes require dealing prudently with nations, sometimes choosing the lesser of two undesirables. As of NOW, I am convinced that Israel has the moral high ground overall, weighing all factors–not holding it up as a model of perfection.

    These answers won’t satisfy everyone. But I want to be honest.

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to reply, Marc. I appreciate your response, and it did clear things up for me as to your original post.

      Your statement: “There is a place for prudence that is not addressed in detail by Scripture” is even itself a Scriptural adage (Prv. 25:2). So that helps in terms of understanding your post within the framework of a Biblical worldview.

      I still probably have some questions, but maybe a conversation would be better. Again, I really appreciate your clarification.

      Thank you again! :)

  6. Listening to Netanyahu’s speech was the least that President Obama could do. To listen, does not mean to necessarily agree; and for him to not do that at all makes our whole country look bad. I don’t understand what he was thinking/is thinking in his actions. I think that maybe our country needs to hear out Israel a little more before deciding what to do regarding Iran.

  7. It’s difficult to even say this, but I just have no idea who to believe/trust in this situation. Obama hasn’t necessarily been honest or even that open about what his foreign policy. For example, in 2008 he promised to get all U.S. troops out of Iraq but that never happened. There is still much information that we still do not know about Israel as well as information from our own administration, which leaves me very skeptical about what has been occurring within the past year. No one knows all of the facts, and so it is very difficult for me to make a stance on this position.

  8. I loved Netanyahu’s comment, “If Iran wants to be treated like a normal country, let it act like a normal country.” I also find it very concerning that Iran would be able to own nuclear weapons in the future.

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