by Congressman Tom Cole
Certainly the most valuable friends in life are those who are unafraid to speak the honest, unapologetic truth when it desperately needs to be heard. Through his powerful speech before Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proved that he, and his country, remains exactly that kind of honest and true friend to the United States.
In an address that will undoubtedly go down in the history books, Netanyahu started off by praising the longstanding friendship between our nations. He said, “America and Israel, we share a common destiny, the destiny of promised lands that cherish freedom and offer hope.” Met with much applause and cheers of affirmation, these words reminded us exactly why the United States and Israel share a common bond that must be cherished and preserved.
Out of concern for his nation, the Middle East and peace-seeking people throughout the world, Netanyahu came to deliver an important message of warning about the Iranian regime during a critical juncture in history. In the midst of negotiations regarding Iran’s nuclear program, he said, “I feel a profound obligation to speak to you about an issue that could well threaten the survival of my country and the future of my people: Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons.” While Netanyahu was speaking before Congress, his words were clearly meant for the president, who appears to be on a dangerous and reckless path in those negotiations with Iran.
Even though the Administration believes that a deal with Iran is possible, I have always shared the prime minister’s concern and skepticism that any deal reached with Iran will actually be honored by the theocratic regime that sits in power in Tehran. As Netanyahu asserted, a nuclear-armed Iran is a menace to the safety of the entire west and a direct threat to the very existence of Israel and the Sunni states of the Middle East. Gambling on the remote possibility that Iran actually honors any so-called agreement with the rest of the civilized world is risky.
Netanyahu pointed out the obvious ideological differences between Iran and the United States, citing America’s own Declaration of Independence regarding “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” contrasted with Iran’s founding document which pledges the “pursuit of jihad.” These fundamental factors alone should be enough to deter the United States from even considering Iran as a negotiating partner.
While the Obama Administration continues to negotiate with the Iranian regime, several details of its concessions have been revealed. Nuclear infrastructure in Iran will remain robust, and inspections will lack the ability to enforce sanctions for violations. Even if sanctions were imposed, Iran only has to wait until the agreement has expired in 10 years before the country would legally be allowed to continue pursuit of nuclear weapons.
As the prime minister reminded us, America doesn’t have to agree to a bad deal negotiated by President Obama. Netanyahu said, “We can insist that the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program not be lifted for as long as Iran continues its aggression in the region and in the world.” I believe the president has a moral and ethical responsibility to ensure Iran doesn’t acquire the atomic bomb. If his negotiations fall short of that objective, Congress has an obligation to reject his actions.
While I was sitting in the chamber listening to the prime minister’s remarks, I couldn’t help but think of Winston Churchill—the only other world leader to address Congress three times. He also came out of friendship and brought words of warning at critical times during World War II. And like a true friend, Churchill always told Congress and the American people not what they wanted to hear but what they needed to know. Netanyahu did the same without apologies and with the same conviction and eloquence.
I will never forget the time spent last week in the House chamber listening to Netanyahu’s sobering remarks. The message he brought to House members, Senators and those watching in the galleries held nothing back and provided an honest, unapologetic portrayal of the threat that Iran poses not only to Israel but to the entire world. America and the world would be wise to listen to what he had to say.