Bibi has long practiced his Churchillian role

Until March 3 Churchill was the only foreign leader to address the U.S. Congress on three separate occasions

Chris Doyle

Published: Updated:

A bust of Sir Winston Churchill presided over the Oval office from 2001-2009 a reflection of how much he was admired by President Bush.

Even walking around naked in front of Franklin Roosevelt has not tarnished this love affair with Churchill in the U.S. that endures 50 years after his death.

The former British Prime Minister also had a statue unveiled in 2013 by Speaker Boehner, who described him as the “best friend the United States ever had.”

How many leaders will wonder why Netanyahu alone can address the U.S. Congress not once but three times?

Until March 3 Churchill was the only foreign leader to address the U.S. Congress on three separate occasions, all in the glory of the post World War II years.

Thanks to Speaker Boehner, alongside him now in the record books will be Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister. The latter has won no wars and made no peace.

How many leaders will wonder why Netanyahu alone can address the U.S. Congress not once but three times?

The UK would adore such adulation as would France and Canada and countless other longstanding American allies.

Other heads of state including the leaders of Germany and Brazil have to grind their teeth even when learning that the U.S. has been tapping their phones.

But I bet not one leader, anywhere, would dare contemplate addressing Congress without White House consent.

Which other world leader could dare thumb his or her nose at the United States President and go behind his back in such a fashion?

President's office "insulted"

Those that defy the U.S. do not usually get to visit it let alone deliver barnstorming, chest-thumping perorations to Congress that aim to rip to shreds a flagship policy of the world’s most powerful man.

And this is not the first time. Who can forget in 2011 Netanyahu lecturing Obama in the Oval office to stunned silence on the issue of Palestinian statehood, strangely enough just before Bibi last addressed Congress.

One American official was quoted as saying that “the office of the presidency, the dignity of the office was insulted.”

In the past, Israel has been able to spy on the U.S.. It has passed on highly classified American technology to the Chinese.

The White House had to specifically warn Netanyahu by name not to reveal details of the proposed Iranian agreement in his speech. Yet still Israel is not challenged.

Netanyahu acted out the respectful guest but his praise for Obama was featherweight feint. The Israeli premier thanked him for well, helping with the Carmel forest fire, at least after Bibi called him.

Bibi has long practiced his Churchillian role of the harbinger of doom. At one moment Iran was an all-powerful evil force gobbling up countries and capitals, and on the other a state on the verge of collapse and capitulation if only a few more sanctions were applied.

"Iranian regime is a danger"

Was he selling regime change via sanctions? Even his cheerleaders in Congress might baulk at buying that one.

The Iranian regime is a danger, it is a threat. But the Obama administration reaction rings fair and true - sound bites are not a substitute for tough decisions.

The U.S. is not about to adopt Bibi’s Iran policy, though the curious thing was that Bibi did not really present a plan at all despite all the brio and bluster.

Some speculate that Netanyahu has irreparably damaged the U.S.-Israeli relationship. Maybe. And what if he has not? What if he gets away with this colossal demonstration of capital chutzpah?

Anyone would think it was Israel that pumped gazillions of dollars of Israeli tax payers’ money into U.S. government coffers not the other way round. That Uncle Sam was sponsored by the Shekel.

Since 1948, inflation taken into account, this figure is around $240 billion.

Netanyahu almost certainly has got away with it. In part it is because his very own pro-Likud lobby, AIPAC, that conveniently had its own annual policy conference at the same time, still packs a punch.

The AIPAC cast of speakers is, as ever, a who’s who of the Washington political elite.

How many states will cast an envious eye over the AIPAC conference and wished they had such a lobby?

Which world leaders would not covet this gargantuan political enterprise that has 16,000 attendees, including 3000 students alone in attendance?

This domestic strength explains why Secretary of State Kerry boasted that the Obama administration has “intervened on Israel’s behalf, in the last two years, more than several hundred - a couple of hundred times in over 75 different fora in order to protect Israel.”

No clear path

So despite the personal self-evident animus between Obama and Netanyahu, those who foresee a serious decline in U.S.-Israeli relations may have to wait.

Obama, despite Netanyahu, has had an impressive track record of supporting Israel. The 2016 Presidential candidates will worship at the AIPAC alter.

The Republicans will vie and fight over Sheldon Adelson’s millions. By January 2017, as a new American President is sworn in, the Israeli electorate will probably have gone to the polls twice and surely by then, there will be a different leader.

The current furor is an argument over Iran but also a clash between two leaders. We have two years remaining in this slugfest of which this was just round one.

The reality is that the two countries have leaders with the same strength, and the same weakness. Obama and Netanyahu may both yearn to be Cicero but neither is a Caesar. Both can speak but neither can lead.

And that is where any parallel with Churchill falls apart. For all his follies and failings, he spoke of the dangers from the Kaiser, to the Nazis to the Soviets but led the way forward too.

Today, for all the frothing from all sides, one thing is clear. Neither the American nor the Israeli leader has shown a clear way forward in the Middle East right now.


Chris Doyle is the director of CAABU (the London-based Council for Arab-British Understanding). He has worked with the Council since 1993 after graduating with a first class honors degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Exeter University. As the lead spokesperson for Caabu and as an acknowledged expert on the region, Chris is a frequent commentator on TV and Radio, having given over 148 interviews on the Arab world in in 2012 alone. He gives numerous talks around the country on issues such as the Arab Spring, Libya, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Islamophobia and the Arabs in Britain. He has had numerous articles and letters published in the British and international media. He has travelled to nearly every country in the Middle East. He has organized and accompanied numerous British Parliamentary delegations to Arab countries. Most recently he took Parliamentary delegations to the West Bank in April, November, December 2013 and January 2014 including with former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.