And a reliable witness am I.
Ehud Olmert became the first Israeli prime minister in more than a decade to address a joint meeting of both houses of Congress. Before I describe this most impressive speech and the historic moment in US/Israel relations, a little background first.
What a day. I was honored to have been invited. The experience more than exceeded my expectations. DC, itself, was glorious. Just beautiful. Crisp, sharp and regal. Such a great town, wonderful people. My favorites are the cab drivers, they are from all over the world and so happy to be here. Free, working, you know -- the American thang.
I arrived at the south door, opposite the Longworth building where a small press contingency had congregated. I started chatting with an elegant gentlemen, and coincidentally the only other blogger invited to cover the historic speech, Paul Mirengoff of Powerline. I liked him, he gave good conversation and was equally surprised and pleased to be in attendance.
Arriving at 8:40 am for an 11 am speech, gave me an opportunity to survey the press. Broadcast went off to a different designated area. The Israeli press was very clique-y, stayed very much to themselves. I had the enormous pleasure of extraordinary company. Uri Dan of The New York Post ((whose column I seldom miss), Paul and erudite Ed Lasky, The American Thinker (you could say Ed's a blogger too.). Uri Dan is a funny, funny guy and smart -- which makes him funnier. Of course the crux of the conversation particularly with Uri was the bonecrushing impact the blogs (no one likes that word anymore but I still think its cool. They prefer website, I say anything but that dirty word media) have had on the media and jihadi organs (my term) like the New York Times.
Had a short chat with the reporter from al arabiya. His take on recent events was amusing -- referring to the violence between Fatah and Hamas as "not important," like a "family fighting," and that 'it certainly will not lead to civil war." Whatever, my family doesn't fight like that, but hey.........what do I know? It must be a cultural thing.
Entering chambers was the great satisfaction. I looooved it. It was thrilling. Watching the Senators and Representatives mill about was wildly interesting. The wannabees working the higher ups on the food chain, the higher ups deigning who they would reward with their attention and conversation. I sat next to Dina, from Israeli TV (for Russian Israelis) and we shared the same politics. Not a suicidal lefty, of which Israel has many (too many.) She was as surprised by my politics as I hers. And so we dished.
Kerry came in looking haggard (think Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend), spent and depleted (think Nicholas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas without the bravado.) Watching that man gave me great pause . That someone as incompetent and worthless as he might have been President, made me shudder. Slumbering, slobbering Ted Kennedy came in late and scribbled notes and nodded off during the speech. What a yutz.
Hillary Clinton dashed (not quite but it was what she attempted to project - she can't really do dash) in at the last moment – very red carpet, very I am the star, a real diva moment. She thinks she’s President, or at least soon to be. Watching her watch the speech, she too was lackluster in her response and when she would bring herself to applaud it was almost in slow motion. As if her hands were weighted down with iron shackles. She has her agenda.And it ain’t pretty although her pink overcoat was rather stylish.
Santorum came in, shook hands, as did Corwyn, affable.... ..you know, plain, decent rational folks. It was most interesting to see the play, the dance, of the power players.
Finally Vice-President Cheney (woo hoo) preceded Ehud Olmert into the chamber. A long, wonderful standing ovation greeted Olmert. It was good. And then he began.
Distinguished members of Congress, I come here – to the home of liberty and democracy – to tell you that my parents’ dream, our dream, has only been partly fulfilled. We have succeeded in building a Jewish homeland. We have succeeded in creating an oasis of hope and opportunity in a troubled region. But there has not yet been one year…one week…. Even one day… of peace in our tortured land.
The confrontation has become even more violent, the enemy turned even more inhumane due to the scourge of suicide terrorism. But we are not alone. Today. Israel. America, Europe and democracies across the globe, unfortunately, face this enemy.
Over the past six years more than 20,000 attempted terrorist attacks have been initiated against the people of Israel. Most thankfully, have been foiled by our security forces. But those which have succeeded have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians…and injury of thousands --- many of the children guilty ONLY of being in what proved to be the wrong place at the wrong time. [Although I differ with Olmert here, they were guilty of being Jewish.]
Olmert began to speak of the recent American victim of of this brutal and unremitting terror, Daniel Cantor Wultz, the 16 year old student from Weston, Florida, who went to Israel to spend the Passover holiday with his parents in Israel.
Sitting with Olmert’s wife in the chamber was Daniel’s parents and sister, Yekutiel, Sheryl, and
Amanda. Daniel’s mother had her hands covering her face, weeping weeping weeping. It was anguish, the utter despair, is beyond my poor description. The heart breaks.
Photo right: Top row Elie Wiesel, Sheryl Wurtz- second from left. Bottom row, Gray haired woman weeping Aliza Olmert (Ehud's wife).
Olmert went on, defiantly;
Let me state this as clearly as I can: we will NOT yield to terror. [Wild applause]. We will NO surrender to terror… and WE WILL WIN the war on terror and restore peace to our societies.
The Palestinian Authority is ruled by Hamas – an organization committed to vehement anti-Semitism, the glorification of terror and the total destruction of Israel. As long as these are their guiding principles, they can never be a partner [wild applause]
Now there was a group of sour faced nasty looking attendees, all seated together, they would applaud nothing, instead they grimaced and sat like lemmings, lovers of evil.. I don’t know who they were, I suspect they are the same savages that voted against the terror bill, here but I will investigate further. It is frightening to know that people like this exist, people that would scowl at fighting terror-- and be legislators in what is the ‘greatest deliberate body in the world’.
Olmert commended the Congress for initiating the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism act which “sends a clear message that the United States of America” will not tolerate terrorism in any form.”
When Olmert spoke of Sharon, he met with thunderous applause. Dina and I were surprised but wildly gratified that the Lion got the much deserved respect and admiration.
Ariel Sharon is a man of few words and great principles. His vision and dream of peace and security transcended time, philosophy and politics. Israel must still meet the momentous challenge of guaranteeing the future of Israel as a democratic state with a Jewish majority, within permanent and defensible borders and a unified Jerusalem as its capital – that is open and accessible for the worship of all religions.
Amen to that.........I am sure he ran that by Bush.
But Olmert 's official visit was dominated by Iran and the controversy over its nuclear potential. Iran's nuclear ambition "is hanging over this visit like a black cloud," said David Landau, editor in chief of the Israeli daily Haaretz . But he added, "Maybe this black cloud could have a silver lining."
The silver lining would be a package linking Iran's nuclear threat and Israel's defense needs to the sea change in Israelis' attitudes toward occupation, which could spell further unilateral withdrawals from Palestinian lands after last year's pullout from the Gaza Strip. I asked Dina what the Israelis thought of further pullouts. She said they want it, they voted for it. They want to get out of there and stop the fighting and be done with it. Enough. But, I said, that won't stop the fighting. That won't stop the Palestinians. They'll never stop. And Dina replied "that's what Sharon said."
With the vision of Ariel Sharon guiding my actions, from this podium today, I extend my hand in peace to Mahmoud Abbas, elected President of the Palestinian Authority. On behalf of the State of Israel, we are willing to negotiate with a Palestinian Authority.This authority must renounce terrorism, dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, accept previous agreements and commitments, and recognize the right of Israel to exist.
Let us be clear: peace, without security, will bring neither peace nor security.
We will not, we cannot, compromise on these basic tests of partnership.
Amazing statement............extending his hand to Abbas, too bad Hamas won the election. Terrorists are now the government. Sharon is in a coma. The realities on the ground have changed considerably since Sharon envisioned his disengagement plan. The funny thing is, now no one wants Israel to leave those lands, the "territories" unilaterally. So afraid are they of the result. al qaedastan perhaps.
Olmert also spoke to "global warming." Hokey I thought, but I guess he knows his audience and he had to throw the leftards a bone. But even to that sour faces were stonefaced.
A land with limited resources, eager to facilitate cooperation with the United States, Israel devotes its best and brightest scientists to Research and Development for new generations of safe, reliable, efficient and environmentally friendly sources of energy. Both our countries share a desire for energy security and prevention of global warming. Therefore, through the United States - Israel energy cooperation act and other joint frameworks, in collaboration with our US counterparts, Israel will increase its efforts to find advanced scientific and technological solutions, designed to develop new energy sources and encourage conservation.
On Iran, Olmert spoke forcefully, unequivocally;
Allow me to turn to another dark and gathering storm casting its shadow over the world…
Every generation is confronted with a moment of truth and trial From the savagery of slavery, to the horrors of World War Two, to the gulags of the Communist Bloc. That which is right and good in this world has always been at war with the horrific evil permitted by human indifference.
That for me was the quotable quote - the proverbial 'money quote,"
Iran, the world's leading sponsor of terror, and a notorious violator of fundamental human rights, stands on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons. With these weapons, the security of the entire world is put in jeopardy
A nuclear Iran means a terrorist state could achieve the primary mission for which terrorists live and die: the mass destruction of innocent human life. This challenge, which I believe is The Test of Our Time, is one the West cannot afford to fail
The radical Iranian regime has declared the United States its enemy. Its President believes it is his religious duty and his destiny to lead his country in a violent conflict against the nfidels. With pride he denies the Jewish Holocaust and speaks brazenly, calling to wipe Israel off the map.
For us, this is an existential threat. A threat to which we cannot consent. But it is not Israel's threat alone. It is a threat to all those committed to stability in the Middle East and the well being of the world at large.
Mr. Speaker, our moment is NOW. History will judge our generation by the actions we take NOW…by our willingness to stand up for peace and security and freedom, and by our courage to do what is right.
The international community will be measured not by its intentions but by its results. The international community will be judged by its ability to convince nations and peoples to turn their backs on hatred and zealotry.
If we don't take Iran's bellicose rhetoric seriously now, we will be forced to take its nuclear aggression seriously later
Thundering applause, but still the lovers of evil sat stoic. The speech was a great one. The moment, enormously important. Cementing the bond. Olmert's address to Congress followed Tuesday meetings with President Bush that Bush said "reaffirmed the deep and abiding ties between Israel and the United States. View the whole speech here. I understand the speech was broadcast live on all three Israeli television networks. Thirty eight outbursts bursts of applause and 18 standing ovations - the Israelis must have been kvelling.
Photos: Getty, we were allowed no cameras, no cells, no blackberries, etc .
UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal's take from their evening wrap;
Should Israel conclude it has no legitimate negotiating partner in a Hamas-led government that refuses to acknowledge Israel's right to exist, his government would be forced to unilaterally impose a border in the West Bank. "We cannot wait for the Palestinians forever," Mr. Olmert told a receptive gathering of senators and congressmen, adding that "our deepest wish is to build a better future for our region, hand in hand with a Palestinian partner, but if not, we will move forward, but not alone." Israel won't be "alone" because of Mr. Bush's unexpected support for Mr. Olmert's border-drawing plan should the current "road-map" peace plan founder. Mr. Olmert's ideas "could lead to a two-state solution if a pathway to progress on the road map is not opened in the period ahead," Mr. Bush said. That came as a surprise to Israeli politicians and others who didn't expect any explicit statement of support from Mr. Bush.
The prospects for further progress on the road map aren't encouraging. The Palestinian leadership has fractured since Hamas quite unexpectedly prevailed in recent parliamentary elections. Mr. Bush encouraged Mr. Olmert to negotiate with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, affiliated with the Fatah party, but Mr. Abbas has shown little ability to tamp down militants in the past and Fatah loyalists are engaged in an increasingly bloody struggle with Hamas militants that some fear could trigger a Palestinian civil war. Late today in Gaza City, Nabil Hodhod, a Palestinian security official with ties to Mr. Abbas, was killed when his car exploded. It was the second attack on security commanders in a week. Meanwhile, masked gunmen kidnapped and shot three Hamas militants, killing one. Hamas blamed the incident on Fatah. The developments are symptomatic of a struggle that has been building and building ever since Hamas assumed power and is unlikely to end either quickly or tidily. Israel and other nations have placed sanctions on the Hamas-led government, and as the inflow of resources slows, the fighting in the streets stands a good change of getting worse. A civil war could also be a humanitarian disaster for the already poor region, and would deal another destabilizing blow to the Middle East that could send shockwaves far beyond the tiny Palestinian territories.
Meanwhile, Mr. Olmert was also discussing Iran's nuclear ambitions with U.S. officials. He spent 35 minutes yesterday talking to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld about the issue, and told lawmakers today that "if we don't take Iran's bellicose rhetoric seriously now, we will be forced to take its nuclear aggression seriously later."
UPDATE: In related news;
• Israel launched a series of actions against Palestinian terrorists, including the arrest of the head of the Hamas Military Wing in the West Bank and the targeted killing of Islamic Jihad's most senior militant in Gaza. [Full Story]
UPDATE: Israpundit has insightful analysis from Belman here
UPDATE: Remembered these folks later on. Harry Reid was very low key. Sullen.....almost clinically depressed, but, hey, I am not a doctor. Maybe he was still licking his wounds over his 'friend's' editorial in his state's flagship newspaper, Las Vegas Review Journal. Or perhaps, that's just his look, Laurel (as in Laurel and Hardy, but with the reid doofy frown replacing Laurel's doofy smile.) McKinney got her old hair back - Heidi goes to Washington. Whattup with the braids girl? Next thing you know she'll be yodeling.
UPDATE: The Israeli press did not see things quite as optimistically as I did. I will not back or deride OLmert's plan because I do not live there. I do not sit in the front row, on the front lines of violent extremism everyday. All I will say is he was not my pick here and to this very day, I didn't undertsand the Israeli election here and here. Sharon or no Sharon, he was quite out of the picture and Hamas was quite in the picture when the Israelis made their
bed choice. They must live with it.
UPDATE: Ed Lasky of The American Thinker wrote a brilliant, insightful piece on Olmert, the speech, America, the Jews, and world history here. Read it all. Having met Lasky I can vouch for his take on world affairs. I loved the historical context of Lasky's piece.
God Bless America: Olmert speaks to Congress
Who should be surprised about the welcome extended by America? Since America’s inception, America has had a special place in its collective heart for the Jewish people, and now, for Israel.
deep and widespread. The Founders believed they owed a debt to the Jews for providing many of the basic precepts that the nation was founded upon and for inspiring them in their efforts to create a nation. This was only the genesis of a long history of friendship and partnership.
Many view this support as biblically ordained, for in the Bible it is written that God “will bless those who bless the Jews and curse whoever curses the Jews” (Genesis 12:3) and for the last two hundred years, America has indeed blessed the Jews. The Jewish people were the progenitors of Judeo-Christian civilization that has reached extraordinary success – whether measured in prosperity, justice, freedom or liberty – in the fertile soil of America. Had Prime Minister looked upwards from the podium when he deliver his address he would have seen directly facing him a relief of Moses. Moses, the founder of ancient Israel and the man who brought forth The Ten Commandments, the foundation stone of Western civilization.
The United States has more than returned the favor. America has provided a haven for terrorized Jews from around the world, has protested pogroms under the Czar, facilitated the creation of Israel, crafted the Jackson-Vanick Amendment that was vital in permitting Jews to emigrate from Russia, interceded to facilitate the escape of Ethiopian Jews to Israel, replenished Israel military supplies after the surprise attacks by its neighbors in 1973, and in a myriad of other ways America has truly been a blessing for the Jewish people.
In the concluding words of Prime Minister Olmert, “God Bless America.”
G-d bless America, indeed. I gotta tell you. Standing in those chambers yesterday, I can not articulate how proud I was /am to be an American.