Bibi's Speech: A More Sober Assessment

National Interest - March 7, 2015

Shai Feldman is the Judith and Sidney Swartz Director of the Crown Center.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has many admirers in the United States–at least if judged by the twenty six standing ovations he received from members of the Senate and the House of Representatives during a speech to a joint meeting of Congress last Tuesday.

Conversely, many other Americans were infuriated by his frontal attack on a serving president and on a central pillar of Barack Obama’s foreign policy. These reactions were only exacerbated by Netanyahu’s decision to deliver his message on the president’s home turf. Both viewpoints were reinforced by Netanyahu’s performance in which his meticulously written speech was perfectly delivered. His admirers were invigorated while his detractors emerged even more annoyed by his misdeeds. Both schools, however, have something in common: their emotions seemed to prevent them from carefully considering the content of Netanyahu’s speech.

Now that a few days have passed and the immediate, reflexive and entirely predictable reactions to the speech are behind us, a more balanced and dispassionate analysis may be possible. Such an analysis should focus on two questions: First, what was the thrust of Netanyahu’s argument and was there anything new and reasonable in his speech that deserves sober consideration? Second, were Netanyahu’s objectives worth the risks and costs entailed in his bold move to inject himself into the heart of a U.S. internal debate regarding an agreement that has yet to be concluded? ... Read the Full Text