The Jewish Festival of Purim, celebrated this year on March 5th, "commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in ancient Persia (modern day Iran) from Haman's plot 'to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day.'" Instead, Queen Esther, a Jewess, stepped forward and bravely saved her people.
Tuesday on Capitol Hill, we heard about another grave threat to the Jewish people. As I sat in the House Chamber and listened to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, I heard a leader who respectfully but urgently conveyed a single, compelling message, the same message Esther gave to the Persian King Ahasuerus: the Jewish people are under threat, and need immediate help.
This was not, contrary to some press reports, a partisan event. Seated in front of me were former Democratic U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman and former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich. These men are divided over many things, but united in their understanding that the American-Israel alliance must never be compromised.
Yes, some Democrats refused to attend the speech. That is unfortunate, but perhaps if they had attended and listened, the jolt of reality the Prime Minister delivered would have been a bracing corrective to the dream-land approach the President is taking toward a militant and aggressive adversary, the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The Prime Minister showed no animus toward President Obama, who refused to meet with him during this historic trip and did not even send Vice President Joe Biden to serve in his ceremonial role as President of the Senate during the speech. The PM noted his gratitude to the current Administration, including President Obama's "support for more missile interceptors during our operation last summer when we took on Hamas terrorists." Congress also played a role; as the PM put it, "this capital dome helped build our Iron Dome."
I was a witness to the Iron Dome last August when I was in Israel and watched as the American funded rockets shot down Hamas's missiles. Lives were saved because of this remarkable bequest by one ally to another.
Today, though, the Iron Dome seems more brittle than at any time in recent memory. If Iran succeeds in developing nuclear weapons, its declared intention is to use them against the State of Israel. As Mr. Netanyahu put it,
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei spews the oldest hatred, the oldest hatred of anti-Semitism with the newest technology. He tweets that Israel must be annihilated — he tweets. You know, in Iran, there isn't exactly free Internet. But he tweets in English that Israel must be destroyed ... Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, Iran's chief terrorist proxy …said: If all the Jews gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of chasing them down around the world.
Iran poses a deathly danger not only to Israel, but to the entire Middle East. "In the Middle East, Iran now dominates four Arab capitals, Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa. And if Iran's aggression is left unchecked, more will surely follow," the PM observed. "So, at a time when many hope that Iran will join the community of nations, Iran is busy gobbling up the nations."
Mr. Netanyahu also clarified the reality that "Iran and ISIS are competing for the crown of militant Islam. One calls itself the Islamic Republic. The other calls itself the Islamic State. Both want to impose a militant Islamic empire first on the region and then on the entire world. They just disagree among themselves who will be the ruler of that empire."
And he made a trenchant case for the fact that Iran could develop an entire nuclear arsenal, secretly, if the Obama proposal was accepted. "The (Administration's) deal has two major concessions," Mr. Netanyahu said. "One, leaving Iran with a vast nuclear program and two, lifting the restrictions on that program in about a decade. That's why this deal is so bad. It doesn't block Iran's path to the bomb; it paves Iran's path to the bomb."
The PM's plan is quite different. It contains three points:
First, Iran must "stop its aggression against its neighbors in the Middle East."
Second, Iran must "stop supporting terrorism around the world."
And third, Iran must "stop threatening to annihilate my country, Israel, the one and only Jewish state."
These things should be assumed in any negotiation with a power as hostile as Iran, but the Obama Administration seems willing to leave them off the negotiating table.
At the end of the speech, the Prime Minister noted the frieze of Moses embedded in the House wall. It looks directly down upon the Speaker's rostrum. And he quoted Moses's charge to the people of Israel as they prepared to enter the land God had given them: "Be strong and resolute, neither fear nor dread them." This was a moment in which all Americans were reminded of our nation's undeniable Judeo-Christian heritage, something sadly missing for the past six years.
It was Esther's uncle, Mordecai, who came alongside her and urged her to take action to save her people. She was inspired and informed by his leadership.
Netanyahu is sounding the same alarm as Esther. The question is, who will be Israel's Mordecai? Will anyone come alongside and help her in an hour of grave threat? Will America?
Will we have the resolution and strength Moses challenged his people to embrace? The security of the Jewish state, of the entire Middle East, and of the United States itself depends on our answer.