Overshadowed by the high-scale drama that was taking place in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing room in Washington, D.C., last Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was delivering a powerful and effective condemnation of the Iran regime at the United Nations, one that should not be lost on us as we focus on the Supreme Court crisis.
It’s not the first time the Israeli leader has used his annual U.N. Security Council appearance to warn of the danger Iran represents to Israel, the region, and the world. He has done so consistently over the last decade. But this speech was different for two primary reasons. First, Netanyahu was no longer speaking as the weary whiner, out of sync with Washington regarding Iran. While the Obama administration sought from the outset to engage Iran in diplomacy rather than confrontation, most notably through the 2015 nuclear deal, the Israeli leader was always the odd man out, insisting that Iran could not be trusted to play by the rules. Netanyahu’s speech before Congress in March 2015, openly castigating Barack Obama as being duped by the mullahs, did not sway the president. Instead it angered him and deepened the rift between many Democrats and the Netanyahu government, which continues.
But as Netanyahu spoke at the U.N. last week, he knew he had the full and vocal support of President Donald Trump who, heeding the prime minister’s advice, withdrew the U.S. from the nuclear deal with Iran earlier this year. The move further isolated Israel and the U.S. in the world community, but it appears to have weakened the Iran regime financially.
The other key difference in Netanyahu’s U.N. speech last week is that he offered proof that Iran lies when it insists it is no longer seeking to develop nuclear weapons. He asserted that Iran has “a secret facility in Tehran — a secret atomic warehouse for storing massive amounts of equipment and materiel from Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program.”
In May, Israel exposed another site of Iran’s secret atomic archive, also in Tehran. The information about both sites is believed to have come from a bold raid Israel conducted in Tehran in February, making off with more than 100,000 documents and videos hidden in a secret atomic archive.
A confident Netanyahu told the U.N. audience that “what Iran hides, Israel will find,” and he called on the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog organization monitoring Iran’s compliance to the deal, to “go inspect this atomic warehouse, immediately, before the Iranians finish clearing it out.”
A few days later, the IAEA issued a statement saying that it does its own independent reviews and doesn’t rely on information presented to it from third parties. The IAEA says Iran has been in compliance with the restrictions placed on it through the nuclear deal and that the agency “sends inspectors to sites and locations only when needed.”
The response from Netanyahu’s office was that “there is no reason to wait. The IAEA should check the site immediately and send inspectors with a radiation detector, and the prime minister’s statement will be found to be the truth.”
The incident was a reminder that Iran cannot be trusted and that the stakes are highest for Israel.
The confrontational aspect of Netanyahu’s speech, and response to the IAEA, makes many pro-Israel supporters proud of Israeli ingenuity and a leader willing to call out the world’s weakness in responding to a perceived threat. Others feel the prime minister is increasing the chances of war, as in his warning to Hezbollah that Israel will not tolerate its stockpiling precision missiles.
Over the years, Netanyahu has been admirably cautious about pulling the trigger. Even with a brutal civil war to the north in Syria, and with Iran and Russia an increasing presence there, he has not taken his country to war. In the end, Israel’s government must do all it can to protect its citizens and let the world know that it will not tolerate situations that put the Jewish state in danger.