When You Don't Want to Listen to Netanyahu, You Write a Computer Script to Do It for You

Tarek Amr did a quantitative study of Netanyahu's speeches to the American congress over the years and discovered mentions of 'peace' have heavily diminished, while the term 'nuclear' has skyrocketed.

After a quantitative study of keywords in Netanyahu's three speeches to the American congress, Tarek Amr discovered mentions of ‘peace’ have heavily diminished, while the term ‘nuclear’ has skyrocketed. Image mixed by author.

This post by Tarek Amr was originally published on Medium on 8 March 2015. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a speech in the American Congress on 3 March. This was his third speech there; the first was in 1996, and the second in 2011. The Israeli leader was invited this time by John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, to address Iran’s nuclear program and the deal being negotiated between the United States and Iran.

I seldom have enough patience to listen to politicians speeches, and Netanyahu isn’t an exception here. Thus, I preferred to write a small software scripts to summarise the speech for me.

Normally, when we humans speak, the words that occur the most in our speeches are functional words, like “the”, “is”, “for”, “to”, “and”, etc. These words occur more than anything else, and have little lexical meaning, thus they are usually removed. But this time, Netanyahu scored a new record by using the term “Iran” more often than any other functional word, except for “the”. In computational linguistics, we also call those frequent words stop-words.

Now, to understand the focus of the speech, I listed the top 10 words used in it, excluding stop words.

Looking at the results, it is clear now that the speech is about “Iran nuclear deal”, given by the prime minster of “Israel” and it took place in “America”. The term “Iran” had the lion’s share of the top 10 words.

What’s the Israeli prime minister’s opinion of the deal, still in the works, as well as Iran and the Iranian regime? Let’s see which words occurred near to each other.


Voilá! The “deal” is “bad”, it will lead to a “bomb”, it needs to “change”, into a “better” “alternative”. “Iran” is “radical”, it does “insist” on the “program”, and maybe linked to violent militant group “ISIS”. “Israel” “stand” close to “America” and it does “know” something. “America” is to be “thanked”, and “Islam” and “militant” come together.

How does this year’s speech compare to his previous two speeches given to the American Congress then?

I selected some words to compare their occurrences in the three speeches.

“Iran” and “nuclear” program are trendy now, while “peace” and “democracy” are so two-thousand-and-late. “America” is always there, and its instances are about as many as the whole world. “Egypt” was mentioned in 2011, the year of the so-called Arab spring. Yet, it was even overshadowed then by “Palestinian”. “War” was never liked, yet “nuclear” gets bigger year after year.

Author's note: Do you think this article is awesome? Feel free to republish it. It is published under a Creative Commons (CC-BY) license. Do you think my methodology sucks or is biased? Or do you feel there is a need to add different analysis? I've posted the code for the script used here. Feel free to copy, edit and share, as long as you give credit. 

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