Here’s how the AIPAC Monday night event unfolded, culminating in the Netanyahu speech.
Preamble: PM Netanyahu to speak here at the Washington Convention Center at 9:30pmET/4:30am in Israel. I just learned that it was pushed up a half-hour.
Big buzz here in the press corps: Entire US intelligence community ‘sure Israel has already decided to attack Iran.’
It’s ‘tantamount to suicide,’ an American intel source tells Israel’s Channel 2. Prime Minister’s people saying the report is unfounded.
Crowd being warmed up by the stupendously amazing, incomparable ’The Idan Raichel Project’ band. Watch their awesomeness on YouTube.
For baseball fans, Bibi is batting third tonight. Up first at 8:30p/3:30a is Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will be on deck.
A rabbi and a preacher are kicking off tonight’s session. (They also walked into a bar…)
Maccabeats just sang US national anthem. One of the female vocalists from The Idan Raichel Project sang ‘HaTikva.’
Finally getting to the speeches. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, gives a shout out to the Jews who traveled here from the Blue Grass State. Says “the only race better than the Jews is the Kentucky Derby.”
Standing ovation for McConnell, who just announced his support for a policy of “overwhelming force” by the US against Iran if the intel agencies determine that Iran is enriching Uranium to weapons-grade levels or pursuing nukes.
Make no mistake – this is a swipe at the Obama administration’s Iran policy.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi speaking now, received extremely warm welcome.
Pelosi: “For my family, Israel has always had a special place….From Israel’s founding to this day, our pledge remains the same: Israel and America are friends now and forever.”
Pelosi waxes eloquently about US-Israel relationship, commitment to Israel’s QME (qualitative military edge). Finally gets to Iran.
“We must say to all of our partners around the world: ‘We are judging you on your commitment to joining us to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.’”
She adds: “This is exactly what the Obama administration is doing.” Smattering of applause.
Bibi on stage NOW.
Standing ovation. Roars. Bibi quips, “Wow…This applause can be heard all the way in Jerusalem, the eternal, undivided capital of Israel.” Wastes no time throwing out red meat.
All quotes heretofore will be from Bibi.
“Israel must always reserve the right to defend itself.”
On this, Bibi agrees with President Obama for sure: US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro’s is indeed improving.
Pivots straight away to Iran: “I read about ‘red lines’ and ‘timelines,’ what Israel will do, what it won’t do. I am not going to talk about that. I never do….Israel has the exact same policy as the US…All options are on the table and containment is NOT an option.”
Mocks notion that Iranian nuke program is for medical purposes: “Ladies and Gentlemen, when an Iranian ICBM is heading towards you, you have nothing to worry about. It has medical isotopes…”
“…If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…(laughter). It’s time for the world to start calling a duck a duck. It’s a nuclear duck.”
“I promise you that, as PM of the state of Israel, I will never gamble with the security of the state of Israel.”
Bibi says Iran hangs gays, stones women, sends children into mine fields. It’s the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism. From the skies and the ground, it’s responsible for the murder of hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans. Cites 1983 US Marine barracks attack in Lebanon, IEDs in Iraq, and the recent plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador in Washington.
Says the regime brazenly accuses the US government of plotting 9/11, which is the equivalent of denying the Holocaust, which they do.
KEY QUOTE: “There’s been a lot of talk about the cost of stopping Iran. It’s about time we started talking about the cost of NOT stopping Iran.”
“Sanctions haven’t worked. They’re hurting Iran’s economy, but Iran’s nuclear program continues to march forward.
Israel has waited for sanctions to work. Diplomacy to work. None of us can afford to wait much longer.
As PM, I will never let my people live in the shadow of annhilation.”
“Some commentators will have you believe that stopping Iran from getting the bomb is more dangerous than letting them have the bomb. They say a military confrontation will undermine the efforts already underway. They say it would be ineffective and provoke an even more vindictive response from Iran.
I’ve read these arguments before. In my desk, I have copies of an exchange of letters between the American Jewish Congress and the US War Dept.”
Bibi reads a 1944 letter from the War Dept. to the Jewish community about their plea to bomb trains to Auschwitz. Letter states that such an attack would likely make Germans “more vindictive.”
“Never again will the Jewish people be powerless.” Standing ovation. “That is why Israel must always have the ability to defend itself by itself.
When it comes to Israel’s survival, we must always remain the masters of our fate.” Standing again.
“Israel is the only place where Arabs enjoy full civil rights….where Christians are free to practice their faith. The only place in the mideast where judges protect the rule of law. And as PM, I always protect Israel’s democracy.”
“I will never tolerate any discrimination against women.” Lots of standing.
Says this week, we’ll hear how one woman, 2500 years ago, a courageous Jewish woman, Esther, foiled a plot to annhilate the Jews.
“In every generation, Jews face people who want to destroy them. In this generation, there is a Jewish state to defend itself.”
The big finish. Bibi thanks crowd for standing up for the “one and only Jewish state.”
Ari Ben Goldberg is the Washington, DC correspondent for the Times of Israel. He is a former AIPAC spokesperson.