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What really matters

It’s finally over.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyuhu gave his speech to Congress. (It was his third such speech; he now ties the record for foreign leaders giving a speech to Congress with Winston Churchill.)

Mr. Netanyahu obviously is a good speaker, charismatic and charming, of course thoroughly at home in English. (Although it must be said that he is no Churchill. Of course, since Churchill died there has been no Churchill. It’s the sharp, irreverent, disarming wit that’s missing. Alliteration and snark don’t necessarly count. But I digress.)

My digression is almost the point, though. As I write these words, the dust has not yet begun to settle; it is still flying around with wild abandon, landing on faces and gritting up computers. By the time you read it, the speech will have faded into the past a bit, and with any luck the passions it dredged up will go with it.

Iran poses a huge threat to Israel. An existential one. Like many of the countries in the Middle East, both in the Arab world and beyond it, it seems to be run by crazy people, driven by hatred, illogic, and fear.

Bibi Netanyahu is a bone-deep politician. He appears to be a complicated man, driven by a complex mixture of real belief (as, primarily, in the truth of Iran’s desire to annihilate Israel) and blatant political expedience. He has been prime minister for a very long time, rising to the top in a political environment that in its insanely grassroots-level democracy seems to encourage pandering to lunatics with swing votes rather than trying to make sane, stable alliances.

His timing could not have been worse, both because it brought him here too close to the Israeli election and because he rappelled himself into a standoff between the Republicans and Democrats, where he does not belong. He seems to have accomplished the neat trick of making the political situation both in Israel and here worse.

We hope that by Friday, when you read this, some of the acrimony over the speech, the breach with President Obama, the dilemma into which Netanyahu plunged so many of the politicians who are his natural allies but could not – and did not want to – side with him against their own president, will have died down.

Our most fervent hope is that somehow once this circus is over we once again will be able to concentrate on what matters – keeping Iran from manufacturing nuclear bombs that will be able to destroy Israel.

-JP
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