A National Unity Moment on Israel

Prime Minister Netanyahu is due a month hence to address a joint meeting of Congress.

Via Wikimedia Commons
Prime Minister Netanyahu addressing Congress on March 3, 2015. Via Wikimedia Commons

When Americans go to the polls in November, one of the things they are going to weigh is which candidate will do the better job on the Middle East. Might it be President Trump, who moved our embassy to Jerusalem, launched the Abraham peace accords, and gave the Middle East a season of hope? Or could it be President Biden, who has ushered in a season of bitterness precipitated by the administration’s effort to micromanage the war Israel is fighting? 

It is hard to recall a moment in American Israel relations quite like it. Israel’s defense minister is arriving in Washington, trying to get the administration to stop holding back arms Israel needs in Gaza. The crisis is serious enough that Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke of it in public. The administration claims that it doesn’t know what Mr. Netanyahu is talking about while pledging, as it once did in Gaza, its support if war erupts in the north.

No doubt Mr. Netanyahu has put Mr. Biden in a bind as he prepares for the first debate — set for Thursday — between the two likely nominees. Mr. Biden will have to opt between, on the one hand, his left flank, which would love to maintain the slowdown in arms deliveries to the Jewish state, and, on the other hand, the majority of American voters, including Democrats, that in principle support Israel. At least publicly, Mr. Biden is leaning to the latter.   

Meantime, the war clouds scud. Senior administration officials, CNN reports, have been reassuring visiting Israelis that if a full war between Israel and Hezbollah were to break out on Israel’s northern border, the Biden administration is fully prepared to back its ally. That’s laid to a senior administration official. United States Ship Eisenhower, an aircraft carrier, has, Ynetnews reports, reached the Mediterranean and will remain to “assist” in Lebanon.

Yet, the Netanyahu-Biden feud remains in full view. While Mr. Biden promises to back Israel and at the same time issues not-so-subtle “don’t” warnings to Israel in respect of the Lebanon war, Iran is quietly, but fully and consistently, backing Hezbollah, and directing the level of firing on northern Israel. Britain’s Telegraph is reporting that Iran is using the Beirut international airport to store “large quantities” of weapons for Hezbollah.

This is the context in which Mr. Netanyahu is due to address a joint meeting of our legislature. That prospect, set for July 24, has Mr. Biden greatly exercised, as a similar invitation to Mr. Netanyahu from Congress upset President Obama in 2015. So bitter was the administration that Vice President Biden refused to attend and Mr. Netanyahu’s speech was boycotted by a number of Democrats, including Secretary Clinton’s future running mate, Senator Kaine.

So it is well to remember what happened. In the event, Mr. Netanyahu entered the House chamber to rapturous applause, a standing ovation from both Democrats and Republicans. Mr. Netanyahu brought the legislators to their feet repeatedly throughout his remarks, which warned against the pending articles of appeasement with the Iranian regime. It was a breathtaking performance, but at no moment more so than the end.

That’s when Mr. Netanyahu spoke of Churchill, the only person other than Mr. Netanyahu to address a joint meeting three times. On the third time, Mr. Netanyahu reminded the legislators, Churchill spoke of his emergence as a Zionist in the early years of the 20th century, particularly after Britain issued, in 1917, the Balfour Declaration in support of establishing in the land of Israel a national home for the Jewish people.

“We are no longer scattered among the nations, powerless to defend ourselves,” Mr. Netanyahu said. Then he gestured across the House and fixed upon its bas relief of Moses. Mr. Netanyahu quoted the man who brought God’s laws down from Sinai as saying, “Be strong and resolute, neither fear nor dread them,” which brought Congress to its feet in the kind of national unity moment for which America hungers again.

The New York Sun

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