In the 40-minute speech Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu delivered to a joint session of the US Congress Tuesday, May 3, he listed the iniquities of the “dark, dictatorial Islamic regime” in Tehran, criticized the nuclear deal in negotiation as marking the “countdown to a nuclear nightmare” and proposed improvements and safeguards that would “make it better.
Speaking to a packed chamber – and interrupted by 40 standing ovations and long cheers – Netanyahu listed Iran’s aggressive march “to devour its neighbors,” citing Lebanon, Golan, Iraq and Yemen, in line the tenets of jihad enshrined in the Islamic Republic’s revolutionary constitution. He called Iran the world’s foremost sponsor of state terrorism.
The nuclear deal on the table, said the prime minister, should be improved by making Iran submit to three provisos: (1) to forego aggression against its neighbors and the Middle East at large, (2) to forego state-sponsored terrorism worldwide, and (3) to stop threatening Israel, the one and only Jewish state, with annihilation.
The proposed ten-year limit on restrictions built into the deal – the “sunset clause” – should be postponed, he said, until Tehran submitted to those three conditions.
The prime minister opened his speech by voicing profound gratitude for America’s support of the Jewish state, “year after year” and the assistance rendered by all its presidents, including Barack Obama, whom Netanyahu praised for the open and unpublicized help he gave Israel in times of crisis and war.
The nuclear deal on the table between six world powers and Iran will, if it is not strengthened, serve to “whet the regime’s appetite to devour more countries," he said. If it goes through, not a single nuclear facility will be destroyed. Tehran will keep its vast nuclear infrastructure intact and have just a year for breakout to a bomb – much less according to Israel. A decade later, Iran’s leaders expect to have 190,000 centrifuges able to turn out an arsenal of bombs in a week.
He also dismissed as useless another key element of the proposed accord, namely, supervision, Netanyahu stressed that inspections only document violations; they do not stop them – look at North Korea, which has produced 100 nuclear bombs and warheads in spite of international oversight.
Iran stalled international inspections three times in 2005, 2006 and 2010 and could do so again. It is believed to have built hidden nuclear sites, which neither the US or Israel have discovered, by dint of the Iranian practice of what the prime minister called its “hide and cheat” tactics.
The deal taking shape in negotiations will not prevent Iran gaining nuclear weapons, said the Israeli leader, but clear its path to a bomb and intercontinental nuclear-capable missiles able to reach any point on earth including the United States.
This will not mark a farewell to arms, but farewell to arms control and a potential nuclear nightmare. The alternative to a negotiated nuclear deal is not war, but a better deal, he insisted.
Netanyahu rejected the argument that in ten years, the Iranian regime will be different and would be more amenable to reason. The Iranian regime is as radical as it ever was since 1979, ever before since the so-called moderate President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif took office.
“The battle with ISIS doesn’t make Iran a friend of America,” Netanyahu said. Both are radicals and are competing with each other for domination by the “Islamic Caliphate” or the “Islamic Republic.” In this case, “the enemy of your enemy is the enemy.”
The prime minister concluded his speech by declaring strongly to loud cheers: The days of Jewish passivity in the face of threats of annihilation are over. We can defend ourselves. Even if Israel is alone, Israel will stand. But we know America stands with Israel.