On Tuesday afternoon, the Israeli premier delivered a stern and highly technical presentation on the state of Iran’s nuclear weapons program to 11 high school freshmen at Francine Berman’s after-school Model Congress, with both Geeks and Jocks seated together in a sign of bipartisan solidarity and support for the Jewish state.
Netanyahu received a subdued but largely respectful hearing from the 14- and 15-year-olds who sat through the 56-minute presentation, thus earning full credit for a class project in World Affairs. While Netanyahu’s 2011 address to Congress earned 24 standing ovations, 17 tossed garlands of flowers and assorted shouts of “Take it off!” his soaring rhetorical flourishes were met by the freshmen with coughs and a faint chorus of finger taps followed by text bloops.
Netanyahu’s detailed enumeration of uranium enrichment schedules, centrifuge inventories and spent fuel disposal seemed largely to fly over the heads of the assembled crowd, although his periodic, sardonic references to U.S. intentions to “stop the clock” on Iran’s nuclear program triggered concerned glances at the analog timepiece hanging on the classroom wall.
Netanyahu himself was somewhat disconcerted by the lack of prolonged applause in response to his rhetorical red meat, thus creating several awkward pauses. In one instance, when he described the “unbreakable friendship” between Israel and the United States, one freshman was heard to mutter, “Yeah, wait until he fingers your girlfriend at the lacrosse team party.”
Netanyahu also seemed unprepared for the questions after the speech, most of which revolved around the supposed romantic status and sexual predilections of Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli and actress Gal Gadot. The prime minister attempted to tie his answer back to the Iranian nuclear issue, warning that “If Iran hits Israel, then Iran will hit Bar Refaeli.” This caused star quarterback Jed Harbaugh to crow, “Hell yeah, I’m with Iran! I’d like to hit Bar Refaeli, bro” — a response met by a series of high fives and a single cry of “Noice!”
Ambassador Ron Dermer and House Speaker John Boehner, who arranged the original invitation for Netanyahu, proclaimed the event a success.
“The purpose of this speech was to explain Israel’s challenges to the American people,” said Dermer, “and these young people will be the decision makers 10 or 20 years from now, when Bibi will have a 5% approval rating and yet still be prime minister.” President Obama did not attend the speech on the grounds that it falls too close to the Israeli election. However, a senior White House official issued a formal administration response consisting of an expletive-filled description of what the Israeli premier can go do to himself.