TIME Israel

5 Facts That Explain U.S.-Israel Relations

Israeli PM Netanyahu Addresses Joint Meeting Of Congress
Win McNamee—Getty Images Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint meeting of the United States Congress in the House chamber at the U.S. Capitol on March 3, 2015 in Washington, DC.

The numbers behind Netanyahu's speech

Bibi Netanyahu delivered his controversial speech to Congress during crunch time for Israeli elections—and amidst turbulence in U.S.-Israel relations. Here are 5 stats that reveal the politics behind the speech and the state of play between Israel and the U.S.

1. Who tuned in?

Even though more than 50 congressional Democrats boycotted Netanyahu’s speech, it seems that just about everyone else was knocking down the doors. John Boehner’s office received requests for 10 times the number of available seats in the gallery. In Israel, the speech hit Israeli networks during primetime… but on a five-minute delay. That was because an election watchdog ruled that any content viewed as electioneering on behalf of the Prime Minister needed to be edited out.

(Huffington Post, New York Times, New York Times, The Telegraph)

2. The Iran threat

With all the applause in Congress for Netanyahu’s hardline stance against Iran, the American public’s actual stance might seem surprising. According to a recent poll, only 9% of Americans view Iran as “the United States’ greatest enemy today.” Three years ago, roughly a third of Americans did. (And you can’t just chalk up the difference to a more bellicose Russia: Iran fell from first place to fourth place). Over 60% of Americans support an agreement with Iran “that would include a limited enrichment capacity”—something Netanyahu pushed back against in his speech. There is a stark difference between Israeli and American opinion on Iran. In a 2013 survey, 75% of Israelis had “a very unfavorable view of Iran,” compared to just 42% of Americans. 85% of Israelis and 54% of Americans said “Iran’s nuclear program is a major threat.”

(Vox, Program for Public Consultation, New York Times, Huffington Post, Pew Research, The Atlantic)

3. A tale of two approval ratings

In Israel, public support for Prime Minister Netanyahu has decreased; his Likud party is in a tight race against the opposition party. But even if his support is waning at home, Netanyahu’s approval in the United States has grown. Almost twice as many Americans view Netanyahu favorably as unfavorably (45% v. 25%), a gain of 10 points since 2012.

(Haaretz, Gallup, i24 news)

4. Arab-Israeli Politics

Although Arabs make up about a fifth of Israel’s population, many Arabs do not vote. (In 2013, only 56% voted compared to a Jewish turnout of 70%). But Arabs are gaining ground in Israeli electoral politics. Recently three small Arab parties united to create the “Joint List.” The new party includes Muslim, Christian, Druze and Jewish Communist candidates. Recent polls indicate the new party could win 14 Knesset seats in the upcoming election. 78% of the Arab public was “very satisfied or moderately satisfied” with the creation of the new Arab bloc, while 19% of the Jewish public shared those feelings.

(The Economist, Daily Mail, Haaretz)

5. Emigration

In February, Netanyahu dubbed himself a “representative to the entire Jewish people”—and encouraged Jews to leave Europe for Israel. Immigration to Israel is on the rise. In 2014, Jews came to Israel in higher numbers than we’ve seen in a decade. But totaling just 26,500, last year’s Jewish immigration to Israel only accounted for 0.3% of the total diaspora. About half of all Jews live outside Israel. In a recent poll, 45% of Israeli Jewish respondents said Jews in America are safer than those in Israel—compared to just 28% who said the opposite.

(Haaretz, The Economist, The Telegraph, Israel Democracy Institute)

TIME Religion

See Photos of Children Celebrating Purim in the 1950s

As the Jewish holiday is celebrated around the world, here is a selection of never-published photos by Alfred Eisenstaedt

In a 24-page feature on Judaism in 1955, part of a multi-issue series on world religions, LIFE Magazine introduced the religion’s holidays to readers in order of their spiritual importance. First came the high holy days, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, followed by Passover (which Charlton Heston would bring to the silver screen the following year) and Simchat Torah (which celebrates the end of the annual cycle of reading the Torah). Fifth on the list, just edging out Hanukkah’s festival of lights, was Purim.

“Purim (February or March) finds the children dancing and dressing up, recalling how beautiful Queen Esther saved the Jews from persecution at the hands of a politician named Haman.” That’s all the real estate the holiday received, accompanied by a black and white photo of a Hasidic man dancing in Jerusalem. Left on the cutting room floor were a number of color photographs made by Alfred Eisenstaedt of Israeli children wearing costumes for the celebration. Some dress as the characters in the Purim story (Esther, no surprise, is a crowd favorite), while others, like one little Lone Ranger, draw from popular culture.

The celebration itself centers around the reading of the Book of Esther, which begins with the Persian King Ahasuerus banishing his wife Vashti for disobeying orders. He arranges a beauty pageant to find a new wife and selects Esther, who keeps her Judaism a secret. Esther’s cousin Mordechai, leader of the Jews, gains Ahasuerus’ favor by alerting him to an assassination plot, but incurs the wrath of anti-Semitic prime minister Haman, who issues a decree ordering all Jews to be killed. Esther valiantly stands up to Ahasuerus, disclosing her true identity and leading to Haman’s hanging on the gallows built for Mordechai.

Purim is a favorite among children, who for just one day are encouraged to indulge in several activities that might otherwise be frowned upon. Dress-up hour is extended to a full-day activity. Cookies are offered up in abundance, their triangular shape conjuring evil Haman’s hat. And noisemakers are distributed, with children instructed to exercise their full vocal capacity whenever Haman’s name is uttered.

But Purim is not just for the kids. Adult revelers are urged to drink until they can’t tell the difference between Mordechai and Haman—Talmud’s orders.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

TIME politics

The Art of the Deal

Joe Klein is TIME's political columnist and author of six books, most recently Politics Lost. His weekly TIME column, "In the Arena," covers national and international affairs.

Benjamin Netanyahu offers stark warnings (and perhaps an assist) on a pact with Iran

Is there anybody here from Texas?” the Prime Minister of Israel asked the 16,000 assembled for the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference. Of course there were. Whoops and cheers erupted. It is one of Benjamin Netanyahu’s conceits that he knows how to do American politics, how to both present himself in a user-friendly way to the American public and play the back alleys of power in Washington. He has had some success with this, but not always. His attempt to intervene in the 2012 presidential campaign on Mitt Romney’s behalf was disastrous. His strong speech on March 3 to members of Congress, assailing the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, may be better received, both in America and, more to the point, in Israel, where he faces a difficult re-election campaign. “People are tired of Bibi. I’m tired of Bibi,” said an Israeli attending the AIPAC meeting. “But I have two sons in the military, and I have confidence that Netanyahu will make decisions that will keep them as safe as possible. I don’t feel the same about any of the opposition leaders.” Certainly no other potential Israeli leader could have made so powerful an appeal to Congress.

And despite the cheesy political context of the moment, there are aspects of Netanyahu’s speech that should be cheered even by those of us who believe that President Obama is pursuing the right course in seeking a nuclear deal with Iran. Netanyahu’s bluster and bombing threats have been invaluable to the negotiating process. He’s been a great scary-tough cop to President Obama’s sorta-tough constable. And Obama has needed all the help he can get. “The Persians believe that the time to get really tough is just before a deal is cut,” an Israeli intelligence expert who favors the deal told me in December. “So tell me why your President is sending nice personal letters to the Supreme Leader at exactly the wrong time?”

On the very day that Netanyahu spoke, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif “rejected” the 10-year restrictions on Iran’s nuclear-energy program that he’d spent the past few months negotiating. If the haggle were taking place in the bazaar in Tehran, this would be the time for the U.S. to “call their bluff,” as Netanyahu said, and perhaps even counter with a 15-year deal. There would be danger in hanging tough; the Iranians could easily walk away, even though this is a deal they desperately need. The Iranian people, not just the Ayatullah’s regime, are extremely sensitive to perceived humiliation by the West; a certain, often justified, paranoia is part of the Persian DNA. “They think they invented bargaining,” a South Asian diplomat told me. “They push it too far.”

So Netanyahu’s speech was, at least, a useful reminder about the art of the deal in the Middle East. It was also a useful reminder that Iran’s extremist Shi’ite leaders are no picnic, though nowhere near the threat to American security that Sunni radicals like ISIS are. It is easy, in the midst of the current near embrace, to overstate the case for Iran. It is the most middle-class, best-educated country in the region, aside from Israel and Turkey, with the best-educated and most professional women; it also has a cheerily pro-American populace. But it is, along with Cuba, the greatest mismatch between a people and a government of any country in the world. The regime’s support for Hizballah, the Houthis in Yemen and other Shi’ite militant organizations is indefensible. A nuclear deal with Iran might grease the way for the diminution, through democracy, of the Supreme Leader’s regime–or it might further empower the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, which controls at least 20% of the economy and would be enriched by the lifting of sanctions.

But here is what Netanyahu cannot argue: that his position represents a step forward. Indeed, it is in fact the exact opposite. Right now, under the interim agreement negotiated by the U.N. and U.S., Iran has stopped–in fact, it has reversed–the enrichment of highly enriched (20%) uranium. It has allowed extensive inspections of all its facilities. It has agreed to stop plans for a plutonium reactor. There is a good chance, if the deal is made, that it will continue in this mode, in compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Netanyahu’s rhetoric that a deal would “pave” the way toward an Iranian bomb is a ridiculous overstatement; his “plan” would guarantee an Iranian rush to arms.

Revolutions grow old. It is difficult to sustain fanaticism. The Iranian people are tired of their global isolation. It may be that their semi-democratically elected leaders, as opposed to the theocratic military regime, are ready to rejoin the world. There is nothing to lose by testing that proposition–if the Iranians stop playing around and make the deal.

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This appears in the March 16, 2015 issue of TIME.

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TIME Television

Watch Jon Stewart Compare Republicans’ Welcome of Israel’s Leader to a Sex Act

Benjamin Netanyahu is "the leader they wished they had"

Jon Stewart poked fun at congressional Republicans’ very warm welcome of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, comparing it to a certain lewd sex act.

Netanyahu was speaking against the emerging nuclear deal President Obama is pursuing with Iran. Cheers from the majority-Republican Congress were so loud that they actually caused problems for C-SPAN’s sound equipment.

“It was the State of the Union address Republicans wanted, delivered by the leader they wished they had,” Stewart joked on The Daily Show.

Watch the full clip below:

TIME Israel

Israel is Left Divided By Netanyahu Address to Congress

Opposition attacked the Prime Minister for antagonising Obama while supporters say he has a point

After nearly two months in which the controversial address of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Congress has dominated the headlines here, Israelis received the long-awaited talk with a mix of reactions that demonstrated just how divided the country is two weeks before heading to national elections.

Much of the prime-time coverage of Netanyahu’s speech on Tuesday, which focused on what he calls an impending “bad deal” on Iran’s nuclear development program as being negotiated with the US and other Western nations, took a critical view of the premier’s decision to make the speech despite the unprecedented tensions it has sparked with the administration of President Barack Obama.

Israel’s main opposition leader, Isaac Herzog, gave a prime-time speech soon after the televised address, in which he said that Netanyahu had failed to shift policy — or make history as he’d promised — but had simply succeeded in angering the White House.

“There’s no doubt that that Netanyahu knows how to give an address. But his speech today didn’t stop the Iran nuclear program,” Herzog said. “It did not change US policy, and now Israel stands isolated and alone.”

Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli diplomat and chief of staff to several Israeli foreign ministers, told Israel’s Channel One that Netanyahu focused his persuasive efforts in the wrong direction.

“It was too bad that this was a speech to Congress, because this talk needed to be held inside the White House,” Pinkas said. “All of the behavior that surrounded this speech has been a bit like a circus, which I don’t think serves Israel’s interests. There aren’t huge differences within Israel in terms of our outlook on Iran’s nuclear program,” he added, as many Israelis are troubled by Iran’s threats to “wipe Israel off the map.” But Netanyahu’s decision to defy the Obama administration’s wishes by accepting the invitation of Republican House Speaker John Boehner has Israelis worried about damaging relations between Jerusalem and Washington, with few gains to show for it.

Ben Caspit, a widely followed analyst for Maariv and al-Monitor, wrote on Twitter that from the point of view of the polls — where Netanyahu is lagging slightly behind the Zionist Union headed by Herzog and Tzipi Livni — the speech to Congress is like the last bullet in a faulty gun. It could misfire — or might not fire at all.

Barak Ravid, the diplomatic correspondent of the Haaretz newspaper, said little if anything new was said by Netanyahu in Washington. “We can sum this up like this — one big nothing,” he said in a tweet. His colleague Chemi Shalev, the U.S. editor of the left-leaning paper, was similarly unimpressed: “Don’t know how speech plays in Congress/America but most Israelis have heard this before and are already bored to tears.”

But not all of Israel’s opinion-makers were critical of Netanyahu, and some supporters called his speech powerful and moving. Some pundits argue that he has a point about the dangers of leaving Iran with so-called break-out capability — the ability to weaponize atomic material in a short period of time.

“Netanyahu is right,” tweeted Moav Vardi, the diplomatic correspondent for Israel’s Channel 10 news. “In another 10-15 years when this deal expires, Iran can manufacture as many bombs as it wants. To this argument, Obama doesn’t really have an answer.” He also predicted that the speech would not do either of the things Netanyahu’s friends and foes predict: It will neither stop a deal on Iran nor destroy relations with the U.S. Both of those things are beyond the power of a speech to Congress, Vardi noted.

Netanyahu was accompanied on his trip Washington by Naftali Bennett, the leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party. Although the two men are competitors for votes in the March 17 ballot, Bennett touted his backing of Netanyahu on a critical mission for Israel’s defense, and suggested that those who stayed home were not sufficiently worried about the country’s survival. To the criticism that Netanyahu presented no alternative to the ongoing negotiations, Bennett tweeted that the answer was to increase sanctions against Iran.

TIME Military

Concern Over Iran’s Nukes Drowns Out Its Growing Role in Iraq

Tehran helps Baghdad try to retake Tikrit as U.S. watches

Consternation over Iran boiled Tuesday on Capitol Hill as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared Tehran’s push for nuclear weapons “could well threaten the survival of my country.” But over at the Pentagon, the Iran focus wasn’t on Netanyahu but Iraq. That’s because Iran is playing a key role in Baghdad’s fight to retake Tikrit from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, while the U.S. is confined to the sidelines.

After the U.S. invested $26 billion rebuilding the Iraqi army over the past decade, some Pentagon officials found it disconcerting to see Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias leading the charge into Saddam Hussein’s hometown. The Iranians, of course, are relishing the opportunity: Hussein was running Iraq when it launched the eight-year Iran-Iraq war that ended in a stalemate in 1988 with roughly 200,000 killed on each side.

American concern is justified: having Iranian-backed Shi’ite forces storm largely-Sunni Tikrit risks turning the conflict against the Sunni ISIS forces into a sectarian conflict that could balloon into a civil war. “It’s absolutely key that [the Iraqi government] make sure that they have provisions in place to accommodate the Sunnis,” Army General Lloyd Austin, chief of the U.S. Central Command, told the House Armed Services Committee Tuesday. “That lack of inclusion is what got us to this point, and I think the only way that we can ensure that we don’t go back there is if we have the right steps taken by the government.” Fewer than 1,000 of the 30,000 fighters battling ISIS for Tikrit are Sunni tribal fighters, according to Iraqi estimates.

The populations of both Iran and Iraq are primarily Shi’ite. Since Saddam’s hanging in 2006, the Sunnis of western Iraq have been treated poorly by the Shi’ite-dominated government in Baghdad. Many Sunnis welcomed ISIS’s move into the region last year, when it killed more than 1,000 Iraqi Shi’ite troops who had been stationed at a base known, when the Americans were there, as Camp Speicher. Some of the Shi’ites attacking Tikrit are bent on revenge for the slaughter, which could exacerbate intra-Muslim tensions.

Iran, according to reports from the front and Pentagon officials, is backing Iraqi forces with air power, artillery fire and advisers guiding Shi’ite militiamen, who account for perhaps 10,000 of the fighters trying to retake Tikrit. “This is the most overt conduct of Iranian support, in the form of artillery and other things,” Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, told the Senate Armed Services Committee later Tuesday. “Frankly, it will only be a problem if it results in sectarianism.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. — which has conducted thousands of air strikes against ISIS targets since August — has been grounded in the battle to retake Tikrit. The daily U.S. tally of air strikes launched Wednesday ticked off targets around al Asad, Bayji, Mosul, Ramadi and Sinjar. But there were no strikes in or around Tikrit, although U.S. drones are keeping a nervous eye on the fighting (“We have good overhead imagery,” is how Austin put it).

Iran has reportedly dispatched commanders notorious for their killings of Sunnis to the fight. That may lead Tikritis to view those seeking to free their city from ISIS’s grip not as rescuers but as bloody vengeance-seekers.

As the U.S. and Israel work to keep Iran’s nuclear genie bottled up, both Washington and Tehran have said they are not operating together inside Iraq. “We don’t coordinate with them,” Austin, whose command oversees U.S. military forces inside the country, repeated Tuesday.

In other words, they’re allied, but not allies. “The battle between Iran and ISIS doesn’t turn Iran into a friend of America,” Netanyahu told Congress on Tuesday. “Iran and ISIS are competing for the crown of militant Islam … They just disagree among themselves who will be the ruler of that empire.”

TIME

Real TIME: Netanyahu Condemns ‘Bad Deal’ With Iran in Congress Speech

“It doesn’t block Iran’s path to the bomb, it paves Iran’s path to the bomb”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a speech to Congress on Wednesday to address the possible consequences of a nuclear Iran.

Watch #RealTIME to hear what he had to say.

TIME Foreign Policy

Reaction to Netanyahu Speech Divides Along Partisan Lines

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before Congress on Tuesday was exactly what he said he didn’t intend it to be: political.

While many of his points brought both Democrats and Republicans to their feet — “This Capitol dome helped build our Iron Dome” was a clear winner — Democrats stayed seated for the point that mattered most.

“This is a bad deal,” said Netanyahu, of the negotiations by the Obama Administration and five other countries to prevent the Iranian regime from obtaining nuclear weapons. “It’s a very bad deal. We’re better off without it.”

There was a clear contrast in Netanyahu’s support from the beginning, when ear-splitting cheers arose for the handshake between House Speaker John Boehner and Netanyahu. In the front row, Illinois GOP Senator Mark Kirk, an Iran hawk, rose to his feet and banged his cane against the ground in approval throughout the speech.

On the key “we’re better off without it” line, GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Senator Joe Lieberman joined the Republicans’ standing ovation in their seats overlooking the chamber. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who ran a 2012 congressional campaign that Adelson backed, said before the speech that it could convince Congressmen to overcome an Obama veto of a controversial Iran sanctions bill.

“I think if the Prime Minister really makes his case, the Kirk-Menendez bill — increasing sanctions against Iran should there not be a deal — could pass,” said Boteach. “They’re close. They almost have enough Senators to override a promised presidential veto and maybe that’s what the Prime Minister is aiming for more than anything else.”

After the speech, foreign policy hawks said that the U.S. should walk away from the negotiating table.

“I thought it was very reasonable,” said Bill Kristol, founder of the Weekly Standard and an attendee of the event. “The world will not end if there’s not a deal and if sanctions are reimposed. The world was chugging along two years ago with sanctions and no deal … As Netanyahu said, as many people have said, If it’s a bad deal, you can’t sign a bad deal. You’re not walking away.”

MORE: Netanyahu’s Speech Tied Him in Knots

During the speech, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi was in “near tears.”

“I was near tears throughout the Prime Minister’s speech — saddened by the insult to the intelligence of the United States as part of the P5 +1 nations, and saddened by the condescension toward our knowledge of the threat posed by Iran and our broader commitment to preventing nuclear proliferation,” she said in a statement.

Dozens of Democrats boycotted the speech, which came on Boehner’s invitation without White House consultation and two weeks before Netanyahu’s election.

Even those Democrats who agreed with Netanyahu that the deal is “bad” blasted his speech for lacking a specific plan forward.

“This is a bad deal,” said California Democratic Representative Brad Sherman. “He showed us why this deal is a bad deal. The alternative to a bad deal is we’re in a bad situation. And he did not give us a clear road map to a good deal.”

Read next: Netanyahu Will Be Speaking in Winston Churchill’s Shadow

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Foreign Policy

Iran’s Supreme Leader Just Subtweeted Netanyahu’s Speech

After Netanyahu called him out for past tweets

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called out Iran for tweeting threats to his country during his speech before Congress on Tuesday—so it’s not surprising that Iran responded with a tweet.

“Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei spews the oldest hatred, the oldest hatred of anti-Semitism with the newest technology,” Netanyahu said. “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.”

Two hours later, a Twitter account associated with Khamenei responded with a tweet, or more properly, a subtweet, since it didn’t mention Netanyahu or his speech to Congress:

It’s not the first time the Iranian leader’s account, which has 103,000 followers, has taken a shot at the United States. As TIME reported last year, the Twitter account also accused the United States of “racial discrimination” after a grand jury in Ferguson, Mo., decided not to indict a white police officer who shot and killed a black teenager.

TIME Foreign Policy

A Speech That Fell Short and Tied Netanyahu in Knots

No one sets the table better than Benjamin Netanyahu. With Ehud Barak, his defense minister at the time, the Israeli prime minister pushed the matter of Iran’s nuclear ambitions to the front of the global agenda three years ago by threatening to launch military strikes against Tehran. And he spent the last month or so — while running for re-election back in Israel, no less — stoking the keen, keen anticipation that awaited Tuesday’s joint address to Congress.

By the time he took the rostrum in the House at ten minutes after 11, the drumroll was almost deafening; on Fox News a half hour earlier, the camera was trained on the empty hallway outside the Capitol office of Speaker John Boehner, empty of human traffic but every molecule of air charged.

So perhaps a letdown was inevitable. Going by the speech itself, though, the problem was more that Netanyahu no longer seems entirely certain what he wants, or at least how to put it. He spoke against the agreement that appears to be taking shape between Iran and six world powers, led by the United States. But at one point in the speech he seemed to concede that the agreement would go forward — calling for its final draft to include language that would extend it beyond ten years unless Iran “changes its behavior by the time the agreement expires. If Iran wants to be treated like a normal country, let it act like a normal country,” Netanyahu said.

Nor was it clear whether Netanyahu’s words were backed by the possibility of an Israel military strike, the barely veiled threat that had proved so effective in galvanizing world attention to Iran’s pursuit of the atom. Halfway through the speech, he essentially took the gun off the table by suggesting the next step would be another round of talks: “Now we’re being told, the only alternative to this deal is war,” Netanyahu said. “That’s not true. The alternative to a bad deal is a much better deal!”

Why would that be? It turns out the country that Netanyahu passed almost all of 40 minutes describing as single-mindedly obsessed with achieving nuclear weapons, may, he said, want something else as well: “If Iran threatens to walk away form the deal – and this often happens in a Persian bazaar — call their bluff. Because they need the deal a lot more than you do.”

The observation, puzzling only in the context of the speech, may well be correct. Even before plummeting oil prices delivered another staggering blow to the petroleum exporter, Iran’s economy was crippled by the array of economic sanctions that President Obama rallied world powers to impose on Tehran (operating on the logic that peaceful coercion was better than the military option Israel appeared poised to exercise). The problem is that Israel no longer appears poised to launch air strikes, yet its leader appears trapped in the rhetoric that made the threat of them credible. It’s a binary equation, where Netanyahu reliably offers the negative to whatever the question at hand: warning that sanctions won’t work, then that they must be left in place, that an interim agreement must be avoided lest it become permanent, then that talks continue beyond the March deadline both sides say they want to honor.

MORE: Why Bibi and Barack Can’t Get Along

It’s a rhetorical trope that may or may not become a trap, but certainly becomes predictable, which in speeches may be as bad. As the prime minister’s address wore on, the applause in the chamber appeared to drift into the dutiful.

Only when he turned to the Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel (the Holocaust survivor Netanyahu tried in vain to persuade to run for the largely ceremonial office of Israel’s President) did the response reach the tumult that greeted his March 24, 2011, address, a frankly cocky appearance that cemented Netanyahu’s mastery of The Hill.

The Wiesel introduction came amid the customary expression of defiance — “Never again” — and vow that Israel would protect itself, which Netanyahu immediately walked back with the observation that the United States of course could be counted upon to do the same. Left unsaid, as always, amid the talk of an existential threats is the matter of Israel’s own nuclear arsenal, and its refusal to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty that is providing so much leverage against signatory Iran.

Speeches may be what the man does best; Netanyahu cut his teeth in politics as Israel’s videogenic spokesman in America, where he attended high school and college, and Hebrew-speakers say he is every bit as effective in that language. But having assigned himself the mission of derailing the negotiations he had basically set in place, then warned against, then said must continue, Netanyahu had to thread a needle, and could not help ending up in a bit of a snarl.

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