“When the conduct of men is designed to be influenced, persuasion, kind, unassuming persuasion, should ever be adopted. It is an old and true maxim ‘that a drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.’ So with men. If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend. Therein is a drop of honey that catches his heart, which, say what you will, is the great high road to his reason, and which, when once gained, you will find but little trouble in convincing his judgment of the justice of your cause, if indeed that cause really be a just one.”
– Abraham Lincoln, 1842
On Tuesday, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, followed in the shadow of Winston Churchill in addressing a joint session of the U.S. Congress for the third time, in a very public effort to counter the negotiations being conducted between the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany regarding Iran’s nuclear development program.
Many view these negotiations on track to give sanction to what Iran has already accomplished in its weapons program and to allow a ten-year window of financial help — requiring the withdrawal of financial sanctions — in return for a strategic alliance in the Middle East.
Churchill’s first address was barely three weeks after the U.S. was attacked by Japan and brought formally into World War II. Churchill spoke on behalf of a soon-to-be-saved nation, believing that America’s entry into the war meant the eventual defeat of the Germany.
His other two addresses focused on the end of WWII and the burgeoning Cold War. In each case, it is fair to say that Sir Winston understood that his speech was political and thus aimed at informing and affecting public opinion about the very real dangers and what should be done about them.
The Israeli Prime Minister, speaking on behalf of a threatened nation, began his address by feigning naivety. “I deeply regret that some perceive my being here as political. That was never my intention.” With all due respect to the Prime Minister, everyone listening understood the irony. His speech was intended to be political. It had to be. The sole purpose in his speech is to sway public opinion, in the U.S. and Europe, towards the Israeli perspective.
The Prime Minister recognizes two obvious facts: The U.S. is in a position to either work for or against Israeli security interests, and the other five nations – Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany — do not fully share the Israeli concern about what may come from a financially strong and nuclear Iran.
Netanyahu fully recognizes that some sort of deal with Iran is on the horizon and that the devil will be in the details.
He made a very basic claim for justice, based upon what is known about the negotiations and the 36 years of rule under the religious zealots in control of Iran. During this period there has been no political freedom, an effective takeover of the four weakest countries in the region — Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen — as well as support for terrorists who have killed untold thousands.
Iran had made jihad a constitutional aim, including the destruction of Israel. There was nothing unreasonable in Netanyahu’s plea regarding a country with no respect for human rights, dignity, or freedom. That such a nation would be encouraged by the U.S. to continue building a nuclear arsenal is a virtual collaboration in the making of weapons that will likely be used against its avowed enemies, beginning with Israel and extending to the liberal democracies of the West!
It is only through affecting public opinion that Netanyahu can affect the negotiations, though it’s not the only recourse should his appeal go on deaf ears. The ultimate option is war, as the Prime Minister made clear:
“But I can guarantee you this, the days when the Jewish people remained passive in the face of genocidal enemies, those days are over. We are no longer scattered among the nations, powerless to defend ourselves.” To this he added an exclamation mark in the form of a warning, “Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand.”
In his speech before Congress, Netanyahu acknowledged respect for both the President and Secretary of State — Kerry being the principle U.S. negotiator — but by agreeing to address Congress, he had already shown that he does not trust the present administration, representing its longest and perhaps greatest ally since 1947. He does not trust Obama to protect the existence of Israel against the probable, or even possible outcomes of negotiations with Iran.
Netanyahu appealed to a shared view of human equality and freedom, a freedom that requires fundamental security. The U.S. President has intimated that the Prime Minister’s address may cause Iran to leave the negotiations and that this could lead to a wider war in the region. We shall soon know who is right.