Netanyahu’s Speech Divides Washington—and Israel

Netanyahu’s Speech Divides Washington—and Israel
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint meeting of Congress, Washington, D.C., March 3, 2015 (Official photo from the office of Speaker of the House John Boehner by Caleb Smith).

When the idea first emerged of giving a speech before the U.S. Congress on the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his political advisers must have thought the platform would give him a strong boost in Israel’s upcoming parliamentary elections, scheduled for March 17. The hero’s welcome they expected Netanyahu to receive would all but ensure success in his quest for another term in the prime minister’s office.

Electoral politics, to be sure, were not the only or even the principal reason for Netanyahu’s decision to deliver his controversial address. Netanyahu genuinely sees himself as a man with a historic mission to safeguard Israel and prevent another Holocaust of the Jewish people. Anyone who thinks the decision to speak in Washington was all about politics does not understand him.

Still, millenary historic considerations aside, Netanyahu’s actions are hardly free from political considerations. To the contrary, if the prime minister is to save his people, he would argue, he must remain their top leader. And that requires winning elections.

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