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Monday, September 21, 2020

“Special Address by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – By Invitation Only”

This was how Prime Minister Netanyahu’s appearance was billed for a meeting this morning, Thursday March 6, at the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. Invited were leading community rabbis, politicians, American Zionist leaders, journalists, Hollywood executives, and business leaders. We were told to arrive at 7:30 AM, and that breakfast would be served.

Given PM Netanyahu’s visit earlier this week to Washington, D.C. to meet President Obama and address the annual convention of AIPAC activists, everyone with whom I spoke this morning expected that the PM would, at the very least, report on progress towards peace, as that was the main focus of his talks with the President.

I arrived dutifully at 7:15 am and entered a crowd of formally dressed men and women waiting to be checked in and pass through security. We entered the building at 7:45 am.

At 9:15 am we were asked to move from the lobby to the 400 seat theater of the Museum.

At 9:45 am, Rabbi Marvin Hier introduced the Prime Minister claiming that Bibi is the only Middle Eastern leader to have stated publicly that he is willing to go anywhere and anytime to talk peace. Palestinian President Machmud Abbas has said the same thing.

Rabbi Hier then said that Bibi “knows the difference between peace and appeasement,” after which the Prime Minister, at last, ascended the podium and began to speak at 9:37 am (2 hours and 25 minutes after I arrived).

He told us that he had just read a letter written in 1919 that promised the liquidation of the Jewish people in Germany. He compared the Nazis to the “true face” of the current Iranian regime, that we Jews have learned to take seriously the rhetoric of those who promise to destroy us and not ignore such threats, that the Nazi method was at once to be explicit and to deceive, and that yesterday's Israeli seizure of an Iranian ship stocked with dozens of long-range missiles bound for Gaza and Hamas shows that history repeats itself and that we cannot stand idly by. The Prime Minister concluded by saying that that though we were at the Museum of Tolerance we “cannot be tolerant to the intolerant.”

He had spoken for ten minutes. No questions. No conversation. No dialogue with some of the most committed supporters of Israel in Los Angeles.

This “special address” took up most of the morning. Those around me were dumbfounded by the brevity of his remarks and the lack of any statement that would have lived up to the invitation that this would be a “special address” by the Prime Minister of Israel. One colleague quipped that the speech reminded him of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing!”

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