SALT LAKE CITY, March 3, 2015 — Despite the best efforts of the White House, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress today came off smoothly and to Netanyahu’s benefit.
Team Obama tried behind the scenes to, paradoxically, both diminish the importance of the event and try to make the case that it was a colossal breach of protocol (no big deal, but this is a major deal). They even went so far as to encourage Democrats to boycott, more than 50 of whom did just that.
But most of the Democrat heavyweights were there; they stood and applauded at all the right moments.
A major factor in Netanyahu’s very warm reception, of course, is the decorum and tradition of the “most important legislative body in the world.”
The United States has practiced a relatively civil form of representative government for the better part of two and a half centuries. Founded on the English parliamentary system, 114 congresses have developed, codified, and generally practiced well, a system of deliberation and debate between and among opposition parties representing a diverse nation.
The prime minister understands as much, beginning his remarks with a “thank you” to both parties for their support for his country “year after year, decade after decade,” earning thunderous applause and a standing O.
Israel has taken the parliamentary model to the Middle East, where it practices Western democracy in a neighborhood generally hostile to the idea. And that’s precisely why legislators packed the House today and cheered on the tiny state’s great leader. Because they know their constituents stand with Israel.
Unlike standing with Big Business, Defense contractors, or Planned Parenthood, politicians who stand with Israel aren’t necessarily doing so to curry favor with donors—after all, the Republican Party is currently more zealous in its allegiance to Israel’s causes, and far less reliant on Jewish votes or donations.
Instead, declaring support for Israel is more like proclaiming one’s support for the constitution or the troops. It’s simply a requirement for someone to be entrusted with legislative power. The American people intuitively realize that Israel practices a form of government that is more aligned with our conception of rights and individual sovereignty than any of its neighbors. Seventy percent of Americans view Israel favorably. That number has been steady for a decade.
The Israeli determination to mightily stand up for itself is to be admired for anyone who loves liberty.
So those cheers in the House? They were partly pomp that accompanies any major public display in the Capitol.
But it is also the resounding sound of approval for Democracy and the courage of Israel.