Debunking a very little bit of Netanyahu’s speech before Congress.

Right then. Given my conquest of all the foreign airwaves — the BBC on Friday, Russia Today this morning — on matters Israel/Palestine, Obama and Netanyahu, I have been feeling a certain moral obligation to blog about Bibi’s speech before Congress today.

But I have finally just read it (he was delivering the speech as I was finishing my little bout of punditry this morning. Coincidence? Probably) and oh my good Lord — I was exhausted beforehand, and now I’m exhausted and my head hurts. The arrogance, the hubris, the lies, the sheer, balls-to-the-wall chutzpa — and the US Congress applauded, and applauded, and applauded again. I’m glad I didn’t actually hear that part. It was dispiriting enough to read it. Especially the parts where the word “applause” was proceeded by “cheers.” Cheap political points, y’all, just hanging there, ripe and for the taking — and take them, the United States Congress did.

I just don’t have it in me to write about Bibi’s speech now. Bibi’s speech knocked the will to write about Bibi’s speech right out of me.

I did make several points about it on Twitter as I was reading, however, and so I’ve decided to meet myself half-way: I’ll present below the entire transcript, with added notations. Beneath the transcript, you’ll find fleshed out versions of those tweets — I’ll flesh them out in such a way that you can read them without having to dive into the transcript, if you don’t feel like it (it was a very long speech, though, so keep scrolling to get to my notes!).

Tally ho! Speech and comments about same, after the jump.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint session of U.S. Congress on May 24, 2011

Vice President Biden, Speaker Boehner, distinguished senators, members of the House, honored guests, I’m deeply moved by this warm welcome, and I’m deeply honored that you’ve given me the opportunity to address Congress a second time.

Mr. Vice President, do you remember the time that we were the new kids in town? (Laughter, applause.) And I do see a lot of old friends here, and I see a lot of new friends of Israel here as well — Democrats and Republicans alike. (Applause.)

Israel has no better friend than America, and America has no better friend than Israel. (Applause.) We stand together to defend democracy. We stand together to advance peace. We stand together to fight terrorism. Congratulations, America. Congratulations, Mr. President: You got bin Laden. Good riddance! (Cheers, applause.)

In an unstable Middle East, Israel is the one anchor of stability. In a region of shifting alliances, Israel is America’s unwavering ally. Israel has always been pro-American. Israel will always be pro-American. (Applause.)

My friends, you don’t have to — you don’t need to do nation- building in Israel. We’re already built. (Laughter, applause.) You don’t need to export democracy to Israel. We’ve already got it. (Applause.) And you don’t need to send American troops to Israel. We defend ourselves. (Cheers, applause.)

You’ve been very generous in giving us tools to do the job of defending Israel on our own. Thank you all, and thank you, President Obama, for your steadfast commitment to Israel’s security. I know economic times are tough. I deeply appreciate this. (Applause.)

Some of you have been telling me that your belief has been reaffirmed in recent months that support for Israel’s security is a wise investment in our common future, for an epic battle is now under way in the Middle East between tyranny and freedom. A great convulsion is shaking the earth from the Khyber Pass to the Straits of Gibraltar.

The tremors have shattered states. They’ve toppled governments. And we can all see that the ground is still shifting.

Now, this historic moment holds the promise of a new dawn of freedom and opportunity. There are millions of young people out there who are determined to change their future. We all look at them. They muster courage. They risk their lives. They demand dignity. They desire liberty. These extraordinary scenes in Tunis, in Cairo, evoke those of Berlin and Prague in 1989. Yet, as we share their hopes —

You know, I take it as a badge of honor, and so should you, that in our free societies you can now protest. You can’t have these protests in the farcical parliaments in Tehran or in Tripoli. This is real democracy. (Cheers, applause.)

So as we share the hopes of these young people throughout the Middle East and Iran, that they’ll be able to do what that young woman just did — I think she’s young; I couldn’t see quite that far –(laughter) — we must also remember that those hopes could be snuffed out, as they were in Tehran in 1979. You remember what happened then.

The brief democratic spring in Tehran was cut short by a ferocious and unforgiving tyranny. And it’s this same tyranny that smothered Lebanon’s democratic Cedar Revolution and inflicted on that long- suffering country the medieval rule of Hezbollah.

So today the Middle East stands at a fateful crossroads. And like all of you, I pray that the peoples of the region choose the path less traveled, the path of liberty. (Applause.)

No one knows what this path consists of better than you.

Nobody. This path of liberty is not paved by elections alone. It’s paved when governments permit protests in town squares, when limits are placed on the powers of rulers, when judges are beholden to laws and not men, and when human rights cannot be crushed by tribal loyalties or mob rule. (1) Israel has always embraced this path in a Middle East that has long rejected it. In a region where women are stoned, gays are hanged, Christians are persecuted, Israel stands out. It is different. And this was seen — (applause) — thank you.

There was a great English writer in the 19th century, George Eliot. It’s a she; that was a pseudonym in those days. (2) George Eliot predicted over a century ago that, once established, the Jewish state — here’s what she said: “The Jewish state will shine like a bright star of freedom amid the despotisms of the East.” Well, she was right.

We have a free press, independent courts, an open economy, rambunctious parliamentary debates — (laughter) — now, don’t laugh — (laughter) — ah, you see? You think you’re tough on another — on one another here in Congress? Come spend a day in the Knesset. Be my guest! (Laughter, applause.)

Courageous Arab protesters are now struggling to secure these very same rights for their peoples, for their societies. We’re proud in Israel that over 1 million Arab citizens of Israel have been enjoying these rights for decades. (Applause.) Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, only Israel’s Arab citizens enjoy real democratic rights. (Applause.) Now, I want you to stop for a second and think about that. Of those 300 million Arabs, less than one-half of 1 percent are truly free, and they’re all citizens of Israel. (Applause.)

This startling fact reveals a basic truth: Israel is not what is wrong about the Middle East; Israel is what’s right about the Middle East. (Applause.)

Israel fully supports the desire of Arab peoples in our region to live freely. We long for the day when Israel will be one of many real democracies in the — in the Middle East.

Fifteen years ago, I stood at this very podium. By the way, it hasn’t changed. (Laughter.) I stood here and I said that democracy must start to take root in the Arab world. Well, it’s begun to take root, and this beginning holds the promise of a brilliant future of peace and prosperity, because I believe that a Middle East that is genuinely democratic will be a Middle East truly at peace.

But while we hope for the best and while we work for the best, we must also recognize that powerful forces oppose this future. They oppose modernity. They oppose democracy. They oppose peace.

Foremost among these forces is Iran. The tyranny in Tehran brutalizes its own people. It supports attacks against Americans troops in Afghanistan and in Iraq. It subjugates Lebanon and Gaza. (3) It sponsors terror worldwide.

When I last stood here, I spoke of the consequences of Iran developing nuclear weapons. Now time is running out. The hinge of history may soon turn, for the greatest danger of all could soon be upon us: a militant Islamic regime armed with nuclear weapons.

Militant Islam threatens the world. It threatens Islam.

Now, I have no doubt — I’m absolutely convinced — that it will ultimately be defeated. I believe it will eventually succumb to the forces of freedom and progress. It depends on cloistering young minds for a given amount of years, and the process of opening up information will ultimately defeat this movement. (4) But like other fanatacisms that were doomed to fail, militant Islam could exact an horrific price from all of us before its eventual demise.

A nuclear-armed Iran would ignite a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. It would give terrorists a nuclear umbrella. It would make the nightmare of nuclear terrorism a clear and present danger throughout the world.

See, I want you to understand what this means, because if we don’t stop it, it’s coming. They could put a bomb anywhere. They could put it in a missile; they’re working on missiles that could reach this city. They could put it on a — on a ship inside a container; could reach every port. They could eventually put it in a suitcase or in a subway.

Now, the threat to my country cannot be overstated. Those who dismiss it are sticking their heads on the stand. Less than seven decades after 6 million Jews were murdered, Iran’s leaders deny the Holocaust of the Jewish people while calling for the annihilation of the Jewish state. Leaders who spew such venom should be banned from every respectable forum on the planet. (Applause.)

But there’s something that makes the outrage even greater. Do you know what that is? It’s the lack of outrage, because in much of the international community, the call(s) for our destruction are met with utter silence. It’s even worse because there are many who rush to condemn Israel for defending itself against Iran’s terror proxies. Not you. Not America. (Applause.)

You’ve acted differently. You’ve condemned the Iranian regime for its genocidal aims. You’ve passed tough sanctions against Iran.

History will salute you, America. (Applause.)

President Obama has said that the United States is determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The president successfully led the Security Council at the U.N. to adopt sanctions against Iran. You in Congress passed even tougher sanctions.

Now, these words and deeds are vitally important, yet the ayatollah regime briefly suspended its nuclear program only once, in 2003, when it feared the possibility of military action. In that same year, Moammar Gadhafi gave up his nuclear weapons program, and for the same reason. The more Iran believes that all options are on the table, the less the chance of confrontation. (Applause.) And this is why I ask you to continue to send an unequivocal message that America will never permit Iran to develop nuclear weapons. (Applause.)

Now, as for Israel, if history has taught the Jewish people anything, it is that we must take calls for our destruction seriously.

We are a nation that rose from the ashes of the Holocaust. When we say never again, we mean never again. (Applause.) Israel always reserves — (applause) — Israel always reserves the right to defend itself. (Applause.)

My friends, while Israel will be ever-vigilant in its defense, we’ll never give up our quest for peace. I guess we’ll give it up when we achieve it. (Applause.) Because we want peace. Because we need peace. Now, we’ve achieved historic peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, and these have held up for decades.

I remember what it was like before we had peace. I was nearly killed in a firefight inside the Suez Canal — I mean that literally — inside the Suez Canal.

And I was going down to the bottom with a 40-pound pack — ammunition pack — on my back, and somebody reached out to grab me.

And they’re still looking for the guy who did such a stupid thing. (Laughter.) I was nearly killed there. And I remember battling terrorists along both banks of the Jordan.

Too many Israelis have lost loved ones, and I know their grief. I lost my brother. So no one in Israel wants a return to those terrible days.

The peace with Egypt and Jordan has long served as an anchor of stability and peace in the heart of the Middle East. (Applause.) And this peace — this peace should be bolstered by economic and political support to all those who remain committed to peace. (Applause.) The peace agreements between Israel and Egypt and Israel and Jordan are vital, but they’re not enough. We must also find a way to forge a lasting peace with the Palestinians. (Applause.)

Two years ago, I publicly committed to a solution of two states for two peoples — a Palestinian state alongside a Jewish state.

(Applause.) I’m willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historic peace. As the leader of Israel, it’s my responsibility to lead my people to peace. (Applause.)

Now, this is not easy for me. It’s not easy, because I recognize that in a genuine peace, we’ll be required to give up parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland. And you have to understand this: In Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers. (Cheers, applause.)

We’re not the British in India. We’re not the Belgians in the Congo. This is the land of our forefathers, the land of Israel, to which Abraham brought the idea of one god, where David set out to confront Goliath, and where Isaiah saw his vision of eternal peace. No distortion of history — and boy am I reading a lot of distortions of history lately, old and new — no distortion of history could deny the 4,000-year-old bond between the Jewish people and the Jewish land. (Sustained applause.)

But there is another truth. The Palestinians share this small land with us. (Applause.) We seek a peace in which they’ll be neither Israel’s subjects nor its citizens. They should enjoy a national life of dignity as a free, viable and independent people living in their own state. (Applause.) They should enjoy a prosperous economy, where their creativity and initiative can flourish.

Now, we’ve already seen the beginnings of what is possible. In the last two years, the Palestinians have begun to build a better life for themselves. By the way, Prime Minister Fayyad has led this effort on their part, and I — I wish him a speedy recovery from his recent operation. (Applause.)

We’ve helped — on our side, we’ve helped the Palestinian economic growth by removing hundreds of barriers and roadblocks to the free flow of goods and people, and the results have been nothing short of remarkable. The Palestinian economy is booming; it’s growing by more than 10 percent a year. And Palestinian cities — they look very different today than what they looked just a few years — a few years ago. They have shopping malls, movie theaters, restaurants, banks.

They even have e-businesses, but you can’t see that when you visit them. (Scattered laughter.)

That’s what they have. It’s a great change. And all of this is happening without peace. So imagine what could happen with peace. (Applause.)

Peace would herald a new day for both our peoples, and it could also make the dream of a broader Arab-Israeli peace a realistic possibility. So now, here’s the question. You’ve got to ask it: If the benefits of peace with the Palestinians are so clear, why has peace eluded us? Because all six Israeli prime ministers since the signing of the Oslo Accords agreed to establish a Palestinian state, myself included; so why has peace not been achieved?

Because so far, the Palestinians have been unwilling to accept a Palestinian state if it meant accepting a Jewish state alongside it.

You see, our conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state; it’s always been about the existence of the Jewish state. (Applause.) This is what this conflict is about. (Extended applause.)

In 1947, the U.N. voted to partition the land into a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Jews said yes; the Palestinians said no.

In recent years, the Palestinians twice refused generous offers (5.1) by Israeli prime ministers to establish a Palestinian state on virtually all the territory won by Israel in the Six Day War. They were simply unwilling to end the conflict. And I regret to say this: They continue to educate their children to hate. They continue to name public squares after terrorists. And worst of all, they continue to perpetuate the fantasy that Israel will one day be flooded by the descendants of Palestinian refugees. My friends, this must come to an end. (Applause.)

President Abbas must do what I have done. I stood before my people — and I told you, it wasn’t easy for me — I stood before my people and I said, “I will accept a Palestinian state.” It’s time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say, “I will accept a Jewish state.” (Cheers, applause.)

Those six words will change history. They’ll make it clear to the Palestinians that this conflict must come to an end; that they’re not building a Palestinian state to continue the conflict with Israel, but to end it.

And those six words will convince the people of Israel that they have a true partner for peace.

With such a partner, the Palestinian — or rather the Israeli people will be prepared to make a far-reaching compromise. I will be prepared to make a far-reaching compromise. (Applause.)

This compromise must reflect the dramatic demographic changes that have occurred since 1967. (6) The vast majority of the 650,000 Israelis who live beyond the 1967 lines reside in neighborhoods and suburbs of Jerusalem and Greater Tel Aviv.

Now these areas are densely populated, but they’re geographically quite small. And under any realistic peace agreement, these areas, as well as other places of critical strategic and national importance, we’d — be incorporated into the final borders of Israel. (Applause.)

The status of the settlements will be decided only in negotiations, but we must also be honest. So I’m saying today something that should be said publicly by all those who are serious about peace. In any real peace agreement, in any peace agreement that ends the conflict, some settlements will end up beyond Israel’s borders. Now the precise delineation of those borders must be negotiated. We’ll be generous about the size of the future Palestinian state. But as President Obama said, the border will be different than the one that existed on June 4th, 1967. (Applause.) Israel will not return to the indefensible boundaries of 1967. (Cheers, applause.)

So I want to be very clear on this point. Israel will be generous on the size of a Palestinian state (5.2) but will be very firm on where we put the border with it. This is an important principle, shouldn’t be lost.

We recognize that a Palestinian state must be big enough to be viable, to be independent, to be prosperous. All of you — and the president too — have referred to Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, just as you’ve been talking about a future Palestinian state as the homeland of the Palestinian people. Well, Jews from around the world have a right to immigrate to the one and only Jewish state, and Palestinians from around the world should have a right to immigrate, if they so choose, to a Palestinian state.

And here is what this means. It means that the Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside the borders of Israel. (Applause.)

You know, everybody knows this. It’s time to say it. It’s important.

And as for Jerusalem, only a democratic Israel has protected the freedom of worship for all faiths in the city. (Applause.) Throughout the millennial history of the Jewish capital, the only time that Jews, Christians and Moslems could worship freely, could have unfettered access to their holy sites (7) has been during Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem.

Jerusalem must never again be divided. (8) (Applause.) Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel. (Applause.)

I know this is a difficult issue for Palestinians. But I believe that, with creativity and with good will, a solution can be found.

So this is the peace I plan to forge with a Palestinian partner committed to peace. But you know very well that in the Middle East, the only peace that will hold is the peace you can defend. So peace must be anchored in security. (Applause.)

In recent years, Israel withdrew from south Lebanon and from Gaza. We thought we’d get peace. That’s not what we got. We got 12,000 rockets fired from those areas on our cities, on our children, by Hezbollah and Hamas. (9) The U.N. peacekeepers in Lebanon, they failed to prevent the smuggling of this weaponry. The European observers in Gaza, they evaporated overnight. So if Israel simply walked out of the territories, the flow of weapons into a future Palestinian state would be unchecked, and missiles fired from it could reach virtually every home in Israel in less than a minute.

I want you to think about that, too. Imagine there’s a siren going on now and we have less than 60 seconds to find shelter from an incoming rocket. Would you live that way? Do you think anybody can live that way? (10) Well, we’re not going to live that way either. (Cheers, applause.)

The truth is that Israel needs unique security arrangements because of its unique size. It’s one of the smallest countries in the world. Mr. Vice President, I’ll grant you this: It’s bigger than Delaware. (Laughter.) It’s even bigger than Rhode Island. But that’s about it. (Laughter.) Israel under 1967 lines would be half the width of the Washington Beltway.

Now, here’s a bit of nostalgia. I came to Washington 30 years ago as a young diplomat. It took me a while, but I finally figured it out: there is an America beyond the Beltway. (Laughter, applause.)

But Israel under 1967 lines would be only nine miles wide. So much for strategic depth. So it’s therefore vital — absolutely vital — that a Palestinian state be fully demilitarized, and it’s vital — absolutely vital — that Israel maintain a long-term military presence along the Jordan River. (Applause.)

Solid security arrangements on the ground are necessary not only to protect the peace; they’re necessary to protect Israel in case the peace unravels, because in our unstable region, no one can guarantee that our peace partners today will be there tomorrow. And my friends, when I say tomorrow, I don’t mean some distant time in the future; I mean tomorrow. (Applause.)

Peace can only be achieved around the negotiating table.

The Palestinian attempt to impose a settlement through the United Nations will not bring peace. (Applause.) It should be forcefully opposed by all those who want to see this conflict end. I appreciate the president’s clear position on these — on this issue.

Peace cannot be imposed. It must be negotiated. (Applause.)

But peace can only be negotiated with partners committed to peace, and Hamas is not a partner for peace. (Applause.) Hamas — Hamas remains committed to Israel’s destruction and to terrorism. They have a charter. That charter not only calls for the obliteration of Israel, it says: Kill the Jews everywhere you find them.

Hamas’ leader condemned the killing of Osama bin Laden and praised him as a holy warrior. Now, again, I want to make this clear:

Israel is prepared to sit down today and negotiate peace with the Palestinian Authority. I believe we can fashion a brilliant future for our children. But Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by the Palestinian version of al-Qaeda. (11) That we will not do. (Applause.)

So I say to President Abbas: Tear up your pact with Hamas! Sit down and negotiate. Make peace with the Jewish state. (Applause.) And if you do, I promise you this: Israel will not be the last country to welcome a Palestinian state as a new member of the United Nations; it will be the first to do so. (Extended applause.)

My friends, the momentous trials over the last century and the unfolding events of this century attest to the decisive role of the United States in defending peace and advancing freedom. Providence entrusted the United States to be the guardian of liberty. All people who cherish freedom owe a profound debt of gratitude to your great nation. Among the most grateful nations is my nation, the people of Israel, who have fought for their liberty and survival against impossible odds in ancient and modern times alike. I speak on behalf of the Jewish people and the Jewish state when I say to you, representatives of America: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you for your unwavering support for Israel. Thank you for ensuring that the flame of freedom burns bright throughout the world.

May God bless all of you, and may God forever bless the United States of America. (Cheers, extended applause.)

Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you.

(Extended applause.)


(1) This is a little too rich for my blood: The Prime Minister of Israel talking about the “path to liberty” being paved when “governments permit protests in town squares, when limits are placed on the powers of rulers, when judges are beholden to laws and not men, and when human rights cannot be crushed by tribal loyalties or mob rule.” Palestinians living under Israeli occupation are not free to protest peacefully. There are little-to-no limits placed on the powers of their ultimate rulers, that is, the occupying state. Israeli judges are beholden to no laws (certainly not international laws, and occasionally not even Israeli laws) when it comes to judging Palestinians. And Palestinian human rights are regularly crushed by the tribal loyalties of my tribe, the Jews — not to mention frequent mobs of settlers. The genuinely gobsmacking thing about that part of the speech is — you know he meant it. You know he had no idea that he was talking about the occupation without even realizing it.

(2) No, seriously. You’re going to explain to a room full of highly educated English speakers that George Eliot was “a she”? *headesk*

(3) Gaza… is subjugated… by… Iran? So the Israeli control of Gaza’s airspace and all but one point on its borders, its regular bombing raids, its calculation of how many calories that Gazans need per day in order to not genuinely starve to death while Israel controls the flow of food and goods (randomly forbidding the import of such items as pasta, and fishing poles) — this is actually Iran? Ahmadinejad is pulling the strings in Jerusalem? I’m willing to guess that this will come as a surprise even to him.

(4) Update: As Exurban Mom points out in the comments at Angry Black Lady Chronicles, I entirely misunderstood this sentence! I thought Netanyahu was saying that defeating militant Islam was dependent first on “cloistering minds,” but she rightly points out that the word “it” actually refers to “militant Islam,” meaning that “militant Islam… depends on cloistering young minds.” In my defense I was very, very tired, the sentence is very poorly constructed, and I have good reason to suspect the worst of Bibi, particularly when it comes to his opinion of Arab minds. But be that as it may, he didn’t actually say the horrible thing I thought he said!  Yikes. Nothing like being COMPLETELY WRONG. (He might still want to take out his dictionary and look up “democracy” and “arrogance,” but that’s another matter). “Militant Islam… will eventually succumb to the forces of freedom and progress. It depends on cloistering young minds for a given amount of years, and the process of opening up information will ultimately defeat this movement.” Look at that closely: Bibi wants to close “young minds” in the Arab/Muslim world, “for a given amount of years,” until the “process of opening up information” defeats any militancy. He wants to close minds so that open information can make those minds non-militant. Does even he own a dictionary? If Bibi owns a dictionary, he should totes look up “cloistered” and “open,” because he’ll find they’re mutually exclusive ideas. Then he should take a peek at “democracy,” just for a refresher. And then he should look up “arrogance,” because if I hear him correctly, he wants not only to be in charge of what Palestinians can do and say — he believes himself to also be in a position to dictate to the young people of the entire Arab and/or Muslim world what they can think. So. There’s that.

(5.1) and (5.2) ” Palestinians twice refused generous offers…” and “We’ll be generous about the size of the future Palestinian state.” Ok, a) I don’t know what “twice” he’s talking about here, but the so-called “generous offer” made by Prime Minister Ehud Barak has been thoroughly debunked. Should you want to read the debunking, go here – Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors, by Robert Malley and Hussein Agha. It’s absolutely worth the effort. And b) WTF is it with Israel and the very notion of being “generous” to the Palestinians? Israel is not giving the Palestinians anything, not granting them anything. The Palestinians deserve a state in their homeland, and it’s Israel’s moral obligation to return to the Palestinians land on which the Palestinians may build a state. Generosity is entirely unnecessary and doesn’t even enter into it. In his book The Process, former chief negotiator Uri Savir talks a lot about the arrogance of the second wave of Israeli negotiators, who would routinely announce to the Palestinians that they had decided to “allow” this or “permit” that — it’s my opinion that this towering arrogance, of the sort that has plagued all occupiers since the dawn of time, plays an enormous role in Israel’s failure to get over itself and actually achieve peace. They simply cannot see Palestinians as equal partners, and when Palestinians refuse to behave as compliant supporting actors, Israel takes enormous (and sadly real) umbrage. How dare they?

(6) The peace that Bibi says he envisions (though I believe he actually envisions endless war) would involve “a compromise [that] must reflect the dramatic demographic changes that have occurred since 1967” — by which, of course, he means the well more than a half a million people who Israel aggressively and with malice aforethought has been moving into communities in the West Bank and Palestinian parts of Jerusalem since 1967, in order to create facts on the ground, so that a dramatic demographic change would forestall the return of Palestinian lands. Magic!

(7) Bibi maintains that Muslims have had “unfettered access” to their holy sites in Jerusalem. If by “unfettered” he means: “access that is regularly and randomly limited by age and/or gender and is often entirely cut off by curfews and closures” — then sure. It’s been very, very unfettered.

(8) “Jerusalem must never again be divided,” Bibi says — utterly and entirely ignoring the fact (as most Israeli politicians do) that it has never been anything but divided. To read more about this, go to my post “Ethnic cleansing, slo-mo.”

(9) Entirely in keeping with the standard Israeli line, Bibi says: “Israel withdrew from south Lebanon and from Gaza. We thought we’d get peace. That’s not what we got. We got 12,000 rockets fired from those areas…by Hezbollah and Hamas.” Well, yes. Israel withdrew. There have since been a lot of rockets. But what Bibi failed to mention here was that in each case, Israel flat-out refused to negotiate security arrangements. In the case of Gaza, this was in spite of the fact that Palestinian President Abbas was begging for negotiations, so that he could have something to show the Palestinian people for 10 years of negotiations. Then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon flat-out refused. So Hamas took the credit for driving out the Israeli army. How’s that working out for you, Israel?

(10) “Imagine there’s a siren going on now and we have less than 60 seconds to find shelter from an incoming rocket. Would you live that way? Do you think anybody can live that way?” Mr. Prime Minister, the Palestinians in Gaza live this way on a regular basis. Only they don’t have the luxury of sirens. And the IDF’s bombs are far more efficient than Palestinian rockets.

(11) Hamas as “the Palestinian version of al-Qaeda” – yeah, no. Hamas is a particularist, nationalist movement based in an extreme reading of Islam with definite political goals, and a constituency to which it is at least somewhat accountable. Al-Qaeda is a group of nihilists who base their nihilism in an entirely warped reading of Islam with no genuine political goals and certainly no constituency. I will certainly concede that among Muslim extremists and/or terrorists there is often an overlap of methodology and even worldview, but it really, really matters that Hamas’s goals have a concrete nationalist face, and al-Qaeda’s are a very great deal of sound and fury about the international order. When you reduce the former to little more than a shadow of the latter, you further excuse yourself from ever having to talk with anyone who has anything to do with either. Which I realize is your point, Mr. Prime Minister — I’m just showing the good folks the man behind the curtain.

Man, for a quick post, this is damn long…. Sigh. Now my head hurts even more.


  1. Lise

     /  May 25, 2011

    Where….are the comments?

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