Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu marked America’s Presidents Day February 17 by lecturing to a visiting group of American presidents in Jerusalem.
No, Bibi didn’t have any actual occupants of the White House to wag his finger at this time. But he had the next best thing: the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. A 40-member delegation was in town for its annual mission to Israel.
The prime minister addressed three urgent issues. He offered a gloomy assessment of Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects, savaged the U.S.-led nuclear negotiations with Iran and described advocates of boycotting Israel as “classical anti-Semites in modern garb.”
“In the past anti-Semites boycotted Jewish businesses,” he said, “and today they call for the boycott of the Jewish state.”
He issued two appeals for action. One was a stern call to “fight back” against boycott advocates, “to delegitimize the delegitimizers.”
The other was to renew the recently suspended battle against White House policy on Iran. This could be dynamite.
Netanyahu wants the Iran battle fought on two fronts. One is to change the agenda of the Iran nuclear negotiations, which began February 18 in Vienna. The talks are aimed at limiting Iran’s nuclear program, preventing it from producing weapons-grade uranium and building a bomb. Not enough, Netanyahu said. They must “prevent Iran from having the capability to manufacture nuclear weapons” by dismantling its enrichment facilities. “They don’t need any centrifuges and they don’t have a right to enrichment,” he said, to audience applause.
“This is something that requires firmness and clarity,” he added. “It may not be fashionable, but it’s the right thing.”
Secondly, the way to achieve that is to increase “political pressure” and “economic pressure” on Iran. But Iran received the opposite, “easing of sanctions.” That must be reversed. “For a peaceful solution to succeed you need more, not less, pressure.”