What it was like on Netanyahu's plane

Story highlights

  • Netanyahu worked on his speech while on the way to Washington
  • Official said Netanyahu sees speech as "last chance" to avert bad deal with Iran
  • Netanyahu has called this trip "historic"

(CNN)Waiting for Benjamin Netanyahu to arrive at Ben Gurion Airport, there was a whole Winston Churchill aspect to it all.

Many Israeli analysts believe Netanyahu sees his speech to Congress warning of the dangers of a nuclear Iran akin to that of the late British Prime Minister's famous address to parliament in 1939 warning of the pending danger of Nazi Germany.
Indeed on the tarmac, Netanyahu, with his wife, Sara, at his side, somberly declared his visit to Washington a "crucial" and "historic" trip and himself the "messenger" of all the Israeli people, even those who don't agree with him.
    "I fear for the fate of the State of Israel and therefore I will do everything I can to ensure the security of our future," he told reporters before boarding.
    In the days leading up to the trip, Netanyahu laid the symbolism for embarking on what aides believe he views as his date with destiny, starting with a visit to the grave of his father, who he often says warned him about the dangers of missing threats to the Jewish people before it is too late.
    On the eve of his trip, he vistied the Western Wall, the holiest site of Judaism. There Netanyahu declared his solemn obligation to protect Israel, saying "we must unite" against the nuclear deal shaping up with Iran "that could endanger our very existence. "
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    On board the El-Al 767 to Washington, Netanayhu holed himself up with aides working on his speech. A pilot told us he heard the Prime Minister several times yelling from the cabin, "No, no -- stronger, stronger."
    I sat in the back cabin with about 50 journalists -- print reporters, TV correspondents and crews and photographers. I'm told that's about double the number of press who normally travel with him.
    With 12 hours to kill, the journalists chatted about Bibi, the visit and how his planned address to Congress has morphed into an international showdown of mythic proportions. We even found the movies on the plane steeped in symbolism: "The Imitation Game" -- an Academy Award-winning story about how a lone genius mathematician defeated all odds to crack Nazi codes and help save Europe from Hitler's grasp.
    Then there was "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1" a tale of a group of oppressed people led by a brave revolutionary who hopes good will triumph over evil.
    Okay, maybe that"s a stretch. I did say it was a very long flight.
    Bibi, as he is called, never came back. Officials traveling with him said it was because he was busy with the speech. I never thought I would come to appreciate the access the American diplomatic press corps gets aboard the Secretary of State's plane.
    A senior official did come back to brief the reporters just before landing, telling us the Prime Minister would be laying out the details he understands to be part of the nuclear deal shaping up with Iran and urge Congress to press the Obama administration to push back the March 24 deadline for a political framework.
    Netanyahu, the official said, saw the speech as a "last chance" to avert a bad deal with Iran, which could threaten Israel's future.
    We arrived at Andrews Air Force Base to a snowy evening and took the motorcade to Washington.
    Time will tell if this was indeed a historic flight or a flight of fancy.