Netanyahu is only the second foreign leader to address Congress three times+ READ ARTICLE
A leader of a close U.S. ally arrives in Washington to speak before Congress for his third time, as relations between the two countries begin to fray.
That was British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in January 1952, making what TIME then called a “cautiously billed” visit to the United States to attempt to restore the close ties that had carried the U.S. and Britain through World War II.
The same description might also work for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who addresses Congress on Tuesday, becoming only the second foreign leader to address Congress three times. The close relationship between Israel and the U.S. has been buffeted by Israeli policies in the West Bank (opposed by the White House) and by U.S.-led negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program (opposed by Netanyahu). Now, Netanyahu is hoping to convince Washington to see eye-to-eye with him on Iran’s nuclear program.
Netanyahu has already been compared to Churchill by Republicans in Congress. “There is a reason that the adjective most often applied to Prime Minister Netanyahu with respect to Iran is Churchillian,” said Senator Ted Cruz on Monday. House Speaker John Boehner said he plans to give Netanyahu a bust of Churchill.
Here’s how Churchill handled the situation:
In 1952, the post-war state of affairs had brought with it a new set of grievances between Washington and London. What approach should be taken toward Communist China? Would the U.S. support British influence in the Middle East? Would Britain allow the U.S. to use bases in England for nuclear-armed flights against Russia? “But above all else was the fact that, in the time of her own financial and foreign-affairs crises, Britain had somehow lost touch with the U.S.,” TIME wrote in the Jan. 14, 1952 issue.
Still, Churchill faced a friendlier environment than Netanyahu might on Tuesday. While the Prime Minister did not share the same bond with President Truman that he had with Truman’s predecessor, Franklin D. Roosevelt, he was warmly received in Congress and he met personally with Truman. (Obama has declined to meet with Netanyahu, citing concern about influencing upcoming elections in Israel.)
In an article in the Jan. 28, 1952 issue, TIME reported on his entrance into the chamber: “The great man, bearing his 77 history laden years with impassive dignity, walked slowly through the standing, clapping U.S. Congressmen. He had aged, of course, but Winston Churchill seemed hardly a shade less pink-cheeked, rocklike and John Bullish than when he spoke before the House and Senate during World War II.”
One of those speeches had been given nine years earlier, on May 19, 1943, when Churchill had spoken to Congress to provide a confident report on wartime progress and to pledge Britain’s support in the fight against Japan. It was “not one of Churchill’s greatest speeches,” TIME reported, “though any other orator might well have envied it.” The bar had been set high by his first appearance, on Dec. 26, 1941, when Churchill arrived in Washington to rally a disheartened nation that was still reeling from the Pearl Harbor attack three weeks earlier.
Churchill arrived like a breath of fresh air, giving Washington new vigor, for he came as a new hero. Churchill—like Franklin Roosevelt, not above criticism at home —is, like Franklin Roosevelt in Britain, a man of unsullied popularity in his ally’s country…. There were tears in Winnie Churchill’s eyes at the ovation which greeted him, from isolationist and interventionist Congressmen alike. He shoved his thick, hornrimmed glasses over his nose, blinked, balanced himself like an old sailor. With a sly grin, he made his joke, established himself as one of the boys.
Then he let go: eloquence, blunt, polished and effective as an old knobkerrie, the growling, galling scorn for his enemies, the passages of noble purple for his friends. Between bursts of applause in which Supreme Court Justices and diplomats joined as lustily as doormen, the galleries wondered whether ever before had such a moving and eloquent speech been made on the Senate floor. Actually it was not so much the speech as the personality that put it over.
Though Churchill’s third speech was received less “lustily,” Netanyahu, who previously spoke to Congress in 1996 and 2011, might learn from the British Prime Minister’s performance that day. Despite the circumstances, and despite not accomplishing all his aims, Churchill’s visit in 1952 ultimately proved helpful.
“In spite of the very serious failure to make progress on Middle East policy,” TIME observed, “the Churchill visit was a success; it reversed the Anglo-American drift away from unity.”
Read TIME’s story about Churchill’s first speech to Congress: The U.S. at War; Great Decisions