Prime Minister Netanyahu began his speech to Congress with a reference to the book of Esther – the book also known as the “Megillah” that we read on the holiday of Purim. In attempting to make the case for his controversial speech, Netanyahu implied that he was playing the role of the heroine of the story, Queen Esther, savior of the Jewish people. It sounds absurd, but he was quite serious.
In fact, the whole path leading up to the speech was a series of twists and turns that are nearly unbelievable, although they certainly fit the themes of intrigue and absurdity that characterize the Purim story. Indeed, the political circus surrounding the speech provided us with our very own “Purim spiel” - whether it was the spectacle of House Majority Leader John Boehner inviting a foreign head of state to come to Congress and attack the elected president of the United States, or Netanyahu’s flagrant efforts to exploit the invitation for his own electoral gains, or the entire history of Netanyahu’s gratuitous jabs at President Obama (nor his unmitigated chutzpah in pretending otherwise)!
Purim is distinguished in the Talmud as a day in which folly and tomfoolery are mandatory. Drinking yourself silly? Encouraged! It is a day on which anyone, even the prime minister of Israel, can dress up as Queen Esther. But some, it seems, fail to understand that, as the Israeli colloquial saying goes – not every day is Purim.
There are serious, important issues at stake today – war or peace, security or instability, nuclear-armed Iran or a deal that verifiably curbs Iran’s nuclear program.
Netanyahu came to Washington ostensibly because he wanted to impact these serious issues. But the Purim-like fashion in which he and his advisors – along with his shamelessly partisan collaborators – paved his way to Capitol Hill undercut the credibility of his concerns while lobbying against the foreign policy of the President. President Obama has a plan. By the way, so did Queen Esther. If Netanyahu really wants to be Queen Esther, where is his plan?
It serves no one well to treat the challenge of a nuclear Iran as a retelling of the Purim story. Serious challenges require serious leadership.
We at APN and Israel's Peace Now movement know that not every day is Purim. Year-round, Peace Now in Israel and APN in the United States serve as the antithesis to the politics of triviality, bravado and bluster. We speak the sober truth — on the streets of Israel and in the halls of Congress, on the internet and on college campuses. We work to sustain open hearts and open minds in support of peace, and a conviction that a future settlement is not only possible but an absolute necessity. We work to remind Israelis that only through diplomacy and responsible compromises can Israel secure its future as a democracy and a Jewish state.
We're working to advance this notion in good times and bad, rallying support for Israel's long-term interests, and raising our voices when short-sighted policies and actions undercut them.