Political carnival under the clouds for Netanyahu’s speech
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Political carnival under the clouds for Netanyahu’s speech

From bagel parties to commemorative paintings, PM’s address brought out power elites and grassroots alike

Rebecca Shimoni Stoil is the Times of Israel's Washington correspondent.

'Dome of Consequence' painting by Elizabeth Roskam (photo credit: Courtesy)
'Dome of Consequence' painting by Elizabeth Roskam (photo credit: Courtesy)

WASHINGTON — Capitol Hill was aflutter with activity Tuesday morning as Washington VIPs angled for entrance to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to the two houses of Congress. Members of Congress who supported the speech fired off tweets welcoming Netanyahu as A-list figures from House Speaker John Boehner to Republican and casino mogul (and Likud mega-donor) Sheldon Adelson met with the prime minister at Boehner’s pre-speech reception.

Welcoming Netanyahu and AIPAC activists alike, House Republican Conference chairwoman Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Oregon) hosted a “Bibi, Bagels and Lox Reception” in her Cannon Building offices, complete with a live stream of the speech for guests unable to nab a much-coveted pass to attend in person.

Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Illinois) managed to find a way to stand out from the legislative crowd when he announced that he would be presenting the prime minister with a painting by his wife, Elizabeth. Entitled “Dome of Consequence,” the painting is a landscape portraying a black Capitol dome against an orange-red sunset. Roskam said his wife decided to create the painting when she heard of Netanyahu’s plans to address Congress for a third time.

Outside the echoing halls and crowded security checks, grassroots activists stood and waited to make their voice heard.

American business magnate Sheldon Gary Adelson (center) and his wife business women Miriam Adelson (right) attend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech on Iran before a joint meeting of the United States Congress on March 3, 2015 (Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)
American business magnate Sheldon Gary Adelson (center) and his wife business women Miriam Adelson (right) attend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech on Iran before a joint meeting of the United States Congress on March 3, 2015 (Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)

Around 90 minutes before Netanyahu was to begin his address, some 50 anti-Netanyahu protesters paraded in front of the Capitol building under heavy police escort. The entire complex was cordoned off to prevent demonstrators — pro or con — from coming close to the building in which Netanyahu was set to speak.

The protesters held aloft signs calling for an end to all US aid to Israel and stating that Netanyahu was a war criminal. Alternating between cries of “No sanctions on Iran” and “Free, free Palestine,” the demonstrators made their way down the sidewalk. Long lines of AIPAC activists waiting to enter congressional buildings for the organization’s annual lobbying day observed the protesters, silently.

A small group of pro-Israel demonstrators walked down the hill, toward the mall, looking for more Israeli flags.

Supporters of Israel rally at the US Capitol where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was addressing a joint session of the US Congress in Washington, DC, on March 3, 2015 (Photo credit: Andrew Cabarello-Reynolds/AFP)
Supporters of Israel rally at the US Capitol where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was addressing a joint session of the US Congress in Washington, DC, on March 3, 2015 (Photo credit: Andrew Cabarello-Reynolds/AFP)

“I came today to bear witness to the evil of Iran’s desire to destroy and conquer the world,” said Marc Pevar, who came to Washington from Wilmington, Delaware. Prevar said he supported Netanyahu’s speech.

“I’m very proud that he spoke up in the tone he did and wakes more people up to focus on the situation instead of on the pettiness of the personality in the White House. Its not about any individual personalities; it’s about the survival of the Western world against tyranny.”

People protest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he adresses a joint meeting of Congress, outside of the Israeli Consulate in Manhattan on March 3, 2015 in New York City (Photo credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)
People protest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he adresses a joint meeting of Congress, outside of the Israeli Consulate in Manhattan on March 3, 2015 in New York City (Photo credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)

Pevar and his companions found other pro-Netanyahu demonstrators in front of the Capitol, waving American and Israeli flags and — in the case of a group calling itself Bikers Against Jihad — Harley-Davidson jackets.

Some formed a prayer circle while others scanned the road as a handful of ultra-Orthodox men, members of the anti-Zionist Neturei Karta sect, approached to protest the speech. Police kept the two camps apart as they brandished their dueling placards.

Representatives of the anti-Zionist Neturei Karta sect demonstrate outside the US Capitol on March 3, 2015 in Washington, DC. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO/CHRIS KLEPONIS)
Representatives of the anti-Zionist Neturei Karta sect demonstrate outside the US Capitol on March 3, 2015 in Washington, DC. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO/CHRIS KLEPONIS)

Projections of thousands of protesters during the lead-up to the speech were wildly unfounded, however. Washington calm prevailed under leaden skies, with most of the excitement — and action — behind the sturdy walls of the Capitol building.

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