Uri Avnery on “The Speech”

March 7, 2015

SUDDENLY IT reminded me of something.

I was watching The Speech by Binyamin Netanyahu before the Congress of the United States. Row upon row of men in suits (and the occasional woman), jumping up and down, up and down, applauding wildly, shouting approval.

It was the shouting that did it. Where had I heard that before?

And then it came back to me. It was another parliament in the mid-1930s. The Leader was speaking. Rows upon rows of Reichstag members were listening raptly. Every few minutes they jumped up and shouted their approval.

Of course, the Congress of the United States of America is no Reichstag. Members wear dark suits, not brown shirts. They do not shout “Heil” but something unintelligible. Yet the sound of the shouting  had the same effect. Rather shocking.

But then I returned to the present. The sight was not frightening, but ridiculous. Here were the members of the most powerful parliament in the world behaving like a bunch of nincompoops.

Nothing like this could have happened in the Knesset. I do not have a very high opinion of our parliament, despite having been a member, but compared to this assembly, the Knesset is the fulfillment of Plato’s dream.

ABBA EBAN once compared a speech by Menachem Begin to a French souffle cake: a lot of air and very little dough.

The same could be said about The Speech.

What did it contain?  The Holocaust, of course, with that moral impostor, Elie Wiesel, sitting in the gallery right next to the beaming Sarah’le, who visibly relished her husband’s triumph. (A few days before, she had shouted at the wife of a mayor in Israel: “Your man does not reach the ankles of my man!”)

The Speech mentioned the Book of Esther, about the salvation of the Persian Jews from the evil Persian minister Haman, who intended to wipe them out. No one knows how this dubious composition came to be included in the Bible. God is not mentioned in it, it has nothing to do with the Holy Land, and Esther herself is more of a prostitute than a heroine. The book ends with the mass murder committed by the Jews against the Persians.

The Speech, like all speeches by Netanyahu, contained much about the suffering of the Jews throughout the ages, and the intentions of the evil Iranians, the New Nazis, to annihilate us. But this will not happen, because this time we have Binyamin Netanyahu to protect us. And the US Republicans, of course.    

It was a good speech. One cannot make a bad speech when hundreds of admirers hang on every word and applaud every second. But it will not make an anthology of the world’s Greatest Speeches.

Netanyahu considers himself a second Churchill. And indeed, Churchill was the only foreign leader before Netanyahu to speak to both houses of Congress a third time. But Churchill came to cement his alliance with the President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who played a big part in the British war effort, while Netanyahu has come to spit in the face of the present president.

WHAT DID the speech not contain? 

Not a word about Palestine and the Palestinians. Not a word about peace, the two-state solution, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem. Not a word about apartheid, the occupation, the settlements. Not a word about Israel’s own nuclear capabilities.

Not a word, of course, about the idea of a nuclear-weapon–free region, with mutual inspection.

Indeed, there was no concrete proposal at all. After denouncing the bad deal in the making, and hinting that Barack Obama and John Kerry are dupes and idiots, he offered no alternative.

Why? I assume that the original text of The Speech contained a lot. Devastating new sanctions against Iran. A demand for the total demolition of all Iranian nuclear installations. And in the inevitable end: a US-Israeli military attack.

All this was left out. He was warned by the Obama people in no uncertain terms that disclosure of details of the negotiations would be considered as a betrayal of confidence. He was warned by his Republican hosts that the American public was in no mood to hear about yet another war.

What was left? A dreary recounting of the well-known facts about the negotiations. It was the only tedious part of the speech. For minutes no one jumped up, nobody shouted approval. Elie Wiesel was shown sleeping. The most important person in the hall, Sheldon Adelson, the owner of the Congress republicans and of Netanyahu, was not shown at all. But he was there, keeping close watch on his servants.

BY THE way, whatever happened to Netanyahu’s war?

Remember when the Israel Defense Forces were about to bomb Iran to smithereens? When the US military might was about to “take out” all Iranian nuclear installations?

Readers of this column might also remember that years ago I assured them that there would be no war. No ifs, no buts. No half-open back door for a retreat. I asserted that there would be no war, period.

Much later, all Israeli former military and intelligence chiefs spoke out against the war. The army Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz, who finished his term this week, has disclosed that no draft operation order for attacking Iran’s nuclear capabilities was ever drawn up.

Why? Because such an operation could lead to a world-wide catastrophe. Iran would immediately close the Strait of Hormuz, just a few dozen miles wide, through which some 35% of the world’s sea-borne oil must pass. It would mean an immediate world-wide economic breakdown.

To open the Strait and keep it open, a large part of Iran would have to be occupied in a land war, boots on the ground. Even Republicans shiver at the thought.

Israeli military capabilities fall far short of such an adventure. And, of course, Israel cannot dream of starting a war without express American consent.

That is reality. Not speechifying. Even American senators are capable of seeing the difference.

THE CENTERPIECE of The Speech was the demonization of Iran. Iran is evil incarnate. It leaders are subhuman monsters. All over the world, Iranian terrorists are at work planning monstrous outrages. They are building intercontinental ballistic missiles to destroy the US. Immediately after obtaining nuclear warheads – now or in ten years – they will annihilate Israel.

In reality, Israel’s second-strike capability, based on the submarines supplied by Germany, would annihilate Iran within minutes. One of the most ancient civilizations in world history would come to an abrupt end. The ayatollahs would have to been clinically insane to do such a thing.

Netanyahu pretends to believe they are. Yet for years now, Israel has been conducting an amiable arbitration with the Iranian government about the Eilat-Ashkelon oil pipeline across Israel built by an Iranian-Israeli consortium. Before the Islamic revolution, Iran was Israel’s stoutest ally in the region. Well after the revolution, Israel supplied Iran with arms in order to fight against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq (the famous Irangate affair). And if one goes back to Esther and her sexual effort to save the Jews, why not mention Cyrus the Great, who allowed the Judean captives to return to Jerusalem?

Judging by its behavior, the present Iranian leadership has lost some of its initial religious fervor. It is behaving (not always speaking) in a very rational way, conducting tough negotiations as one would expect from Persians, aware of their immense cultural heritage, even more ancient than Judaism. Netanyahu is right in saying that one should not trust them with closed eyes, but his demonization is ridiculous.

Within the wider context, Israel and Iran are already indirect allies. For both, the Islamic State (ISIS) is the mortal enemy. To my mind, ISIS is far more dangerous to Israel, in the long run, than Iran. I imagine that for Tehran, ISIS is a far more dangerous enemy than Israel.

(The only memorable sentence in The Speech was “the enemy of my enemy is my enemy”.)

If the worst comes to the worst, Iran will have its bomb in the end. So what?

I may be an arrogant Israeli, but I refuse to be afraid. I live a mile from the Israeli army high command in the center of Tel Aviv, and in a nuclear exchange I would evaporate. Yet I feel quite safe.

The United States has been exposed for decades (and still is) to thousands of Russian nuclear bombs, which could eradicate millions within minutes. They feel safe under the umbrella of the “balance of terror”. Between us and Iran, in the worst situation, the same balance would come into effect. 

WHAT IS Netanyahu’s alternative to Obama’s policy? As Obama was quick to point out, he offered none.

The best possible deal will be struck. The danger will be postponed for ten years or more. And, as Chaim Weizmann once said: “The future will come and take care of the future.”

Within these ten years, many things will happen. Regimes will change, enmities will turn into alliances and vice versa. Anything is possible.

Even – God and the Israeli voters willing – peace between Israel and Palestine, which would take the sting out of Israeli-Muslim relations.

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1 Response

  1. Poo says:

    Imagine if you will, that I had stooped so low as to compare a speech by the Prime Minister of Israel to the U.S. Congress to one given by Hitler to the Reichstag. Oh how the frothing would shut down the site! But Avnery is a known loon, so nothing.

    I have always been willing to accept the proposition that Uri Avnery was once a decent man though an arrogant one. I have also long suspected that his bitterness and jealousy was causing him to lose his obviously tenuous grip on reality. With this article he has officially lost it and slipped over the ledge

    How dare those “nincompoops” disagree with the Daft Loon. “Nothing like this could have happened in the Knesset.” Of course it couldn’t. There are 13 parties represented in the Knesset and a further 29 attempting to get in. The U.S. Congress is made up of 2 parties. Sort of easier to choose a side, don’t you think? And both sides chose Netanyahu. Avnery cannot take that. I can hear him now. “Why not me? Me! Me! Me!” As is his custom, Avnery makes statements that crumble under the barest of examinations.

    Pity he missed all the great shots of the Inside Information Trading Millionaire, one Nancy Pelosi, working herself into a lather trying and failing to get all the Democrats around her to stop clapping, standing and cheering.

    “Netanyahu considers himself a second Churchill.” Well better Winston than a second Uri. Even the Israeli voters had more than enough of him.

    “Not a word about Palestine and the Palestinians.” True, he should have said something about how Iran funds and arms the terrorist group Hamas directly and indirectly through Hezbollah, another terrorist group.

    Full disclosure, Canada has suspended diplomatic relations with Iran and has expelled Iranian diplomats from Canada. We have formally listed Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism under the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act. We also added Syria to the list of terror-sponsoring states.

    We do, stupidly, give some 60 million a year to that self-aggrandizing, thief Abbas. I say thief because he has made himself a billionaire by siphoning off monies ,given by countries like mine, intended for Palestinian infrastructure into his and his sons out of country bank accounts all the while amassing valuable real estate holdings. But I digress.

    We are not negotiating with Iran and are unlikely to support any agreement that puts terrorists one or two steps nearer an atomic bomb. Again full disclosure, Canada has long been a nuclear power but we do not enrich for weaponry.

    The agreement as discussed would give a direct path to an Iranian bomb, if not today then in 10 years or less. Seems fair, shall I begin the countdown? Like all of the Narcissist in Chief’s deals (think China or Cuba for just 2) the results will land on someone else’s desk after he has left office and swanned about cashing big fees for crowing about his legacy which should last about as long as his plane ride home.

    Iran gets the working sanctions lifted, gets to pump and sell oil legally and world-wide for a change. In fact, they will get foreign investment and a restored economy as if nothing has ever happened. It is virtually a reward for bad behaviour. Who can honestly envisage this radically anti-American, promoter of world-wide jihadist terrorism with an atomic bomb?

    The IAEA has repeatedly reported its concerns “about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed …development of a nuclear payload for a missile.” Iran has successfully been stonewalling International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors from day one. What is there to “negotiate” with people like that? Throw the bums out. We did.

    Also worthy of note, Iran’s intercontinental ballistic missile program would be subject to no restrictions whatsoever! It’s not even on the agenda. Why does Iran need intercontinental ballistic missiles? Their only purpose is to carry nuclear warheads and you don’t need them to hit your next door neighbor. They are called “intercontinental” for a reason. Whose continent? Unlike Avnery, I have no idea. I guess you’ve got to ask Iran. Oh, I forgot. You can’t. Intercontinental ballistic missiles are not subject to any negotiations.

    The mullahs must be loving this deal. They’ve seen the Narcissist in Chief and his Socialite of State in action before. Just wait them out. You’ll get what you want. They brag about “deals”. They like to spin them as “historic.” It’s all about the sound bite, don’t you know? As to content, well, like an Obama speech, it sounds good, it just says nothing. Every country in the world now knows this. Despots, wackos and terrorists are taking advantage knowing full well that the next American President, male or female, Democrat or Republican will not be a feckless, red line-drawing fop.

    While these nuclear talks were hitting a crucial stage, Iran launched a spectacular attack on a replica U.S. carrier near the Strait of Hormuz. Did Avnery miss the point or was it just the good old Mullah sense of humor in action? Actually it is neither as he figures, with his mighty strategic military mind that, in the Strait of Hormuz, “any operation could lead to a world-wide catastrophe.” Quick, someone run and tell the king. I think the sky is falling! The American 5th fleet is responsible for that area and even the nuttiest of Ayatollahs, say Khomeini for example, would not want to take them on. “It would mean an immediate world-wide economic breakdown.” World-wide? Immediate? Flight of fancy or just the usual Avnery bluster and bombast? Oil from Kuwait, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, as well as most of the United Arab Emirates uses the Strait. Much of this oil is transported to East Asia and Western Europe. I guess they would just whimper if deliveries weren’t met. But it is Iran that needs the Strait open the most. They need the foodstuffs that come in and the oil revenue received when the tankers go out. So, a minor nuisance for a few weeks maybe but long-term, nothing. No boots would ever need to hit the ground. A few bombs, Iranian planes and sunken Iranian ships sure, but no U.S boots or any of the coalitions’ either. In the meantime, pipelines are in the works that will eliminate the dependence on the Strait.

    General Avnery sees only ‘give up or there will be war’ solutions. That’s the Narcissist in Chief talking. It is ‘appeasement or war’, the subtle false-choice manoeuvre. Do these guys study the philosophy of Neville Chamberlain? There is choice. Keep and indeed increase the sanctions. Previous sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table in the first place. It won’t get any better for Iran. The current collapse of oil prices will make dire circumstances even worse. The tepid UN Security Council resolutions were more demanding than the tabled proposal with a sunset clause. Why blow us up today when you can do it tomorrow?

    “Indeed, there was no concrete proposal at all.” No, is a proposal.

    “I assume that the original text of The Speech contained a lot.” Will his wonders never cease, now he’s a mind reading loon.

    We kicked Iran out for a very good reason. I have no idea, unlike Avnery who knows everything, whether Iran will go through with any or all of its threats once it has nuclear weapons or even the capacity for them. I do know that without the capacity there can be no true threat. Makes sense to me. You do not give nuclear weapons to terrorists. Period.

    The fact that ISIS is an enemy of Israel does not make Iran a friend any more than they become one of ours. ISIS is our enemy too and we’re the guy that ousted Iran, remember?

    “I may be an arrogant Israeli, but I refuse to be afraid.” Well bully for Avnery and yes he is but the issue is not one of “fear” but common sense. The issue is not what the U.S. and Russian do with their nuclear bombs but what a terrorist and religious fanatic could.

    “Within these ten years, many things will happen. Regimes will change, enmities will turn into alliances and vice versa. Anything is possible,” Avnery says in his role as Pollyanna.

    Finger crossing, hoping and kicking decisions down the road is not the role for a responsible leader. Ask America, they’ve got a guy like that.

    And oh yes, Saudi Arabia agrees with Netanyahu and have told the U.S. as much. “We see Iran involved in Syria and Lebanon and Yemen and Iraq, and God knows where,” Prince Saud said. “This must stop if Iran is to be part of the resolution for the region and not part of the problem.”

    Funny, Avnery didn’t mention that either.

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