Speech of his life and ours
In his speech at Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat center on Sunday, Benjamin Netanyahu the politician disappeared, and in his stead Netanyahu the statesman came to the podium; Netanyahu the leader, who stands in front of his nation and the world to speak the truth, his and ours, like a prophet or a preacher at the gates.
He did not attempt to emulate the United States’ President by spreading false hopes of an agreement with the Iranians, but gave a harsh, biting speech that would have made Barack Obama squirm in his chair. Netanyahu did not overlook the Iranian problem, but took hold with both hands and presented it to the world in all its naked, painful truth. Netanyahu opted to risk his relationship with Obama in order to tell the world: Beware the machinations of the Iranians.
Netanyahu spoke specifically about the evidence for the existence of a military nuclear program -- including both centrifuges and a plutonium reactor-- in his best effort the throw a wrench into the negotiations with Iran. With such evidence made public, no negotiations could demand less than what Netanyahu demanded in his speech, or so he hopes.
With regards to the Palestinian, we again saw the proud Jew, who against all opponents unequivocally demands the existence of the Jewish people in their land: You must recognize Israel as the Jewish state with a right to its country. If you do not recognize it you will not have peace. This is a legitimate demand, important, honest, and truthful, but the Arabs will never agree to it for several reasons.
1. Muslims believe that the religion of Judaism was cancelled out when Christianity arose, and the same happened to Christianity when Islam arrived. And if Judaism is null and void, then how can the Jews come and say that they have a holy land all for themselves?
2. For the Arabs, the Jews are not a nation but a religious community assembled from various ethnicities and countries where Jews have lived for hundreds of years. So if they are not a nation why do they need Israel?
3. According to the Quran, the land of Israel is an Islamic holy land, therefore no Muslim authority will recognize a Jewish state in Israel.
4. Jerusalem is the eye of the storm: According to Islam, there cannot be Jewish sovereignty in Jerusalem, because such an event would signify that Judaism has risen from the grave after Islam had abolished it.
All these reasons prevent an Islamic recognition of Israel as a Jewish state from ever taking place. By insisting on recognition and stalling negotiations in a single spot, Netanyahu has succeeded in delaying the rise of a Palestinian state via an agreement with Israel for several years.
Without a doubt, this was the heart of Netanyahu’s speech, a speech which positions him as a leader and a statesman with a worldview suited to the Middle East, one that both our friends and enemies can value and cherish. To give up on one’s rights is contemptible, while to insist on them is honorable. Netanyahu, and us along with him, stands worthy of respect in the Middle East, and his opinion and positions must be considered.
Mordechai Kedar is Director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation) at Bar-Ilan University, Israel