I've written at great length about this speech, in anticipation of it, and about the Israeli election, to which it is inextricably connected. If you step back, it is amazing that this even happened. A foreign head of state gave a speech to the US Congress explicitly criticizing and trying to block the diplomacy of a sitting U.S. president. Having said all that, what about the speech itself?
Earlier this morning we published this story about how AIPAC had invited Steve Emerson to this year's conference even after he'd gotten in all the trouble a few weeks ago for his bogus claims about Birmingham, England ("totally Muslim") and no-go zones in Paris - statements which led the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to call him an "idiot" and which he himself later apologized for. The piece triggered a blizzard of amazing emails from Emerson in which "challenge[d]" us to publish the questions below and which I am actually eager to publish.
There is a fascinating new study out the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences pointing to a connection between the slow story of climate change and the Syrian Civil War, which of course is the setting out of which ISIS and the current regional war war emerged. Connecting climate change to such a charged on-going event will of course drive attention and controversy. But what is equally interesting to me is the much more uncontroversial claim that in addition to the regional movement of the Arab Spring and the on-going refugee crisis spurred by the Iraq War, the 2007-2010 was destabilizing the Syrian regime out of our view (at least most of us who don't follow these matters closely.)
Anshel Pfeffer has this right. The aim of today's speech is to keep Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister. Notably, though he still has the best shot at forming the next government, Netanyahu personally and his party have slipped in the polls over the last two weeks. Notably, Netanyahu's top political advisor, Ron Dermer, who currently serves as Ambassador to the US, was in Jerusalem for the last ten days advising on the speech and Netanyahu's reelection campaign during one of the tensest period between the two countries in decades.
There are now apparently 51 members of Congress not attending Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech tomorrow. Seven Senators and 44 members of the House. The latest is Sen. Al Franken (D). The list is heavily weighted toward African-Americans but also toward Jews. By my count, Franken is the 6th Jewish member of Congress to sit it out.