Brooklyn born, I am a citizen of the United States. After making aliyah and moving to Alon Shvut, I became, also, a citizen of the State of Israel. I am a dual citizen. On issues of America, the president presumably speaks for me; on issues of Israel, the prime minister primarily speaks for me. At least on matters of halachah and Torah, I stand on more solid and comfortable footing: my Rabbi speaks for me. I will not deign to speak for my Rav, but I do have some suggestions for Bibi and Obama, the democratically elected leaders of my two countries, and will tell them where they could have improved in handling the “Speech of the Century.”
Let’s start with my notes to Netanyahu:
Though you are the political leader of my ancient and present Homeland, would it hurt you to mention G-d more often? As I wrote, it was GREAT that you davened at the Kotel before you went to America, but the singular fault I found in your superb speech was that you mentioned G-d only twice: as you blessed America and Israel. Now, you can argue that you didn’t mention Hashem in your encapsulation of the Purim story because His Name does not appear in the Megillah, but that would be a level of lomdus beyond the ken of Congress. You should have given credit where credit is due and thanked the Almighty — directly, personally. Remember, the “human spirit” you referred to is really the soul breathed into Adam by the Creator.
Your speech was as impressive in tone as in substance. You started almost tentatively while generally your speeches start forcefully. The two words to describe your opening are the same two words to describe what was lacking in Obama’s approach: humility and graciousness. You were humble and gracious, speaking almost reverentially about this opportunity and publicly recognizing Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi (who later embarrassed herself by throwing a tantrum) and the recuperating Harry Reid. You were most generous in recounting the history of American support for Israel bookended by the Democratic Presidents Truman and Obama. You lavished gratitude and praise upon President Obama — rightfully. Despite the apparent and abundant acrimony between you, the president has generally supported Israel, willingly or not. He, as the elected leader of the U.S., must be recognized and commended for all the financial and political support the U.S. provides Israel, ranging from the aid during the Carmel Forest fire to the Iron Dome and political support as our “Big Brother” and protector in the vile halls of the U.N.
Prime Minister, there were numerous memorable lines from your speech: “The enemy of my enemy is my ENEMY” referring to Iran; “The alternative to this bad deal is a much better deal.” These flipped phrases invigorated a discourse that was becoming familiar and tired but it was how you dealt with the “Sunset Clause” that set this speech apart.
Your patient and exact discourse on this point was key. You made it clear that this “Sunset Clause” was, at best, deferring the Iran issue for 10 years until the deal expires. Then Iran is free to do as it “nuclearly” wishes. As all students of Middle East and Muslim history know, 10 years is but a grain of sand in the hourglass of history. You offered a constructive alternative which was to reward Iran if it conclusively demonstrates that it is worthy of entering the community of nations by desisting from its present commitment to terror and regional aggression. Reluctantly, you acceded to such a deal, describing it as one that “Israel and its [Arab] neighbors may not like, but with which we could live, literally.”
Proof that your speech had not only the support of Congress but of the world came in the praise you received from a Saudi journalist who said, “I believe that Netanyahu’s conduct will serve our interests, the people of the Gulf, much more than the foolish behavior of one of the worst American presidents,” and the praise you received after your speech from Al Arabiya English, which published an editorial titled: “President Obama, Listen to Netanyahu on Iran.”
Finally, Mr. Prime Minister, I give you a blessing that your pledge “Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand,” will hopefully never be tested.
Quick note to President Obama: You should have been gracious and humble. Had you been gracious, welcoming Netanyahu despite your well-documented differences, you would have seemed a bigger and greater man. Instead of erroneously claiming “The prime minister didn’t offer any viable alternatives”, had you alternatively shown humility (as it says in Pirkei Avot: “A wise man learns from everyone”), you’d have truly seemed worthy of the title “Leader of the Free World.” Instead, you came off as petulant, small and arrogant, as did your staff and followers.
My final advice to you, Mr. President: Remember, the Jewish people have outlasted EVERY empire on earth and all who have sought to destroy us. Smart money says side with us.
Matt Solomon is a writer, analyst, former speechwriter and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel, with his wife and two children. He can be contacted at email@example.com.