If there were such things as prophets in our day, as there were in ancient times, former (and perhaps future) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be one.
Last week, Netanyahu, whose grandfather was a rabbi, was in Washington sounding vindicated. For years he has been prophesying about terrorism but few would listen. Now everybody is listening.
Netanyahu testified before the House Committee on Government Reform and later met in private with senators. What he said should be required reading for every person who loves liberty and wants to maintain it.
"What is at stake today," he warned the committee, "is nothing less than the survival of our civilization." Three weeks ago, that would have sounded alarmist, even extreme. Not anymore. "Our values are hated with an unmatched fanaticism that seeks to destroy our societies and our way of life," he said soberly.
Netanyahu knows the neighborhood in which he lives and has been personally scarred by terrorism. His brother was killed in 1976 during a commando raid he lead to free hostages from Palestinian terrorists who had hijacked a plane to Entebbe, Uganda.
Echoing President Bush, Netanyahu told the House committee that terrorism is sustained by nations, such as Syria, Iran, Iraq and Libya. "Take away all this state support and the entire scaffolding of international terrorism will collapse into the dust," he said.
While Netanyahu spoke only of modern terrorism and gave a lesson in recent history, the fact is that Islamic terrorism has been an endemic element of the Middle East for 13 centuries. With the exception of Turkey, all modern Islamic regimes have come to power through violence. None has tolerated any challenge to its supremacy. They first terrorize their own citizens who fail to comply with the regime's political or religious beliefs, then they terrorize outsiders, claiming a divine mandate. Equal rights, especially for women, are unknown in such nations.
Terrorism is not an aberration, nor is it born primarily out of frustration to achieve economic parity with wealthier nations. Terrorism is a policy. It is embraced to achieve an objective its practitioners believe cannot be reached in any other way. It has nothing to do with the existence or non-existence of Israel; otherwise there would have been no terrorism in the Middle East for so long.
It matters little that a majority of Moslems have not pledged themselves to the forced implementation of radical Islam. They do not have the guns or the fanaticism of the radicals, who seek, according to Netanyahu, to "roll back the West and install an extremist form of Islam as the dominant power in the world." It makes one long for the good old days of communism.
In a telephone conversation before returning to Israel, Netanyahu told me he sees America's tardy recognition of the terrorist threat as "the beginning of the beginning." He worries, though, that not everyone has gotten the message, noting the continued "pressure on Israel" to meet with Yasser Arafat, an author and promoter of the very terrorism the U.S. opposes. Netanyahu wants us to know about a "terror museum" erected at Al-Najah University, in the Palestinian West Bank city of Nablus. The grisly exhibit glorified the recent suicide bombing of a Sbarro pizza restaurant in Jerusalem.
Natanyahu says he believes most of the American public now understands what he and Israel have experienced for decades. "The liberals are smashed," he says. "They must be quiet or join in the applause (for President Bush's policies)." Not exactly. The "peace at any price" crowd is beginning to stir but they are less likely to be taken seriously by the public, which gives President Bush a 90 percent approval rating.
In his appearance before the House committee, Netanyahu warned, "Some of you may find it hard to believe that Islamic militants truly cling to the mad fantasy of destroying America. Make no mistake, they do. Unless they are stopped now, their attacks will continue, and become even more lethal in the future."
That sounds like the warning of a prophet.