- - Tuesday, March 3, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Benjamin Netanyahu knocked one out of the park Tuesday, and once it cleared the fence the ball beaned a man lurking in the shadows, and bounced into the tall grass. That man in the shadows looked a lot like President Obama.

The Israeli prime minister framed the argument over what to do about the Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons in stark, plain and simple terms: Is a bad deal with Iran — a really, really bad deal — better than no deal at all? The deal emerging from the negotiations in Geneva would not prevent an Islamic bomb, he said, but one “that paves Iran’s path to the bomb.”

The deal is clearly bad with even a cursory examination of its particulars. “This deal,” he told a cheering, applauding joint session of Congress packed into the House chamber, “has two major concessions: one, leaving Iran with a vast nuclear program, and two, lifting the restrictions on that program in about a decade.” Ten years can be a long time in the life of men and women, he observed, but ten years in the life of a nation is but the blink of an eye.

“We must all stand together to stop Iran’s march of conquest, subjugation and terror,” he said. This brought the Congress, including guests and minus 50 or so pouting Democrats, including nearly all of the Congressional Black Caucus, to cheers and applause.

Mr. Netanyahu’s warning that no deal is better than a bad deal turns Mr. Obama’s defense of his weak and feckless negotiations with Iran neatly on its head. The Democrats have argued precisely that the bad deal coming is better than leaving the status quo undisturbed. The president is stubborn in defense of what he wants, but the Netanyahu visit clearly identifies what Mr. Obama will take is the definition of a sucker deal.

Though an admirer of the pluck and grit of Winston Churchill, Mr. Netanyahu offered neither soaring oratory nor memorable imagery, but laid out the argument against the sucker deal with a methodical, straightforward language. In one memorable turn, warning against the temptation to embrace Iran as a barrier to the Islamic State, or ISIS, he reminded Congress that this time “the enemy of the enemy is the enemy.”

He challenged the view, expressed only last week by the administration that the best strategy for defeating ISIS lies in eliminating the “root causes” of poverty and lack of economic opportunity. “The ideology of Iran’s revolutionary regime is deeply rooted in militant Islam, and that’s why this regime will always be an enemy of America. And don’t be fooled, the battle between Iran and ISIS doesn’t turn Iran into a friend of America. Iran and ISIS are competing for the crown of militant Islam. One calls itself the Islamic Republic, the other calls itself the Islamic State. Both want to impose a militant Islamic empire — first on the region, and then on the entire world.”

This is what President Obama should have been saying to America and to the world. This what most Americans believe is true, and most Americans yearn for a president who shares their doubts, suspicions and fears. That Congress heard the doubts and fears expressed so eloquently, and from the well of the House of Representatives, was worth the price of Mr. Netanyahu’s ticket to Washington.

The prime minister leaves a subtle but pointed message, both to Mr. Obama, his like-minded Democrats and to Israel’s militant neighbors in the Middle East. “I can guarantee you this,” he said, “the days when the Jewish people remain passive in the face of genocidal enemies, those days are over. We are no longer scattered among the nations powerless to defend ourselves. We restored our sovereignty in our ancient home. The soldiers who defend ourselves have boundless courage. For the first time in a hundred generations, we the Jewish people can defend ourselves. Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand.”

Talk like that is why so many Americans have come to love and admire the Israelis. They remind us of us.

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