HTS 2041: The Modern Middle East

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Backfire from Political Overreach

Mr. Netanyahu is set to speak at the US Capitol this Tuesday about Iran. This came near a time when the US, along with the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China, are seeking to reach an accord to curtail Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the United States on Monday that the nuclear deal it is negotiating with Iran could threaten Israel’s survival and insisted he had a “moral obligation” to speak up about deep differences with President Barack Obama on the issue. The tense personal relationship between Obama and Netanyahu has sunk to a new low over the Israeli leader’s planned speech to Congress just weeks before an end-of-March deadline for a framework nuclear accord with Iran.

The invitation to Netanyahu was orchestrated by Republican congressional leaders with the Israeli ambassador without informing the White House. This move was part of the Republican’s attempt to undermine President Obama’s power. The Republicans like Netanyahu have favored harsher methods in dealing with Iran over nuclear talks. Netanyahu had according to news reports that just surfaced planned to bomb Iran nuclear sites in 2014 before it was aborted by President Obama’s threat to shoot down Israeli jet.

Recent polls have shown that Netanyahu have lost much of the support from the people of Israel. Many people believed Netanyahu’s planned speech was an attempt to garner support for the upcoming presidential election. However, in an attempt to save his power he has done more harm for the country of Israel.

Netanyahu’s speech has led to many to criticisms from many Israel supporters in the US.  Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky called the speech a “dangerous mistake”. “As a Jew, support for Israel is in my DNA,” she said. “I feel particularly anguished that the ill-advised invitation from Republican house speaker John Boehner has managed to threaten, in my view, both the security of Israel and the historic bipartisan support in the Congress.”  The speech has also divided influential Jewish organizations that have previously stood solidly behind Netanyahu over issues from settlement expansion to the wars with Hamas in Gaza. Nearly 30 democrat members have said they will not attend Netanyahu’s speech.

Netanyahu stated goal is to mobilize Congress to foil what he predicted would be a bad deal between the great powers and Tehran. But the consequence of bitter feuding with the Obama White House has been a dramatic loss of critical support for the prime minister’s position among House and Senate Democrats. Relationship is at a historic low point between the United States and Israel. The strategic relationship has not been this low since President John F. Kennedy was president.

At a time when Israel is losing support from EU, also losing the support of US will be detrimental for Israel’s future. A senior State Department source told Al-Monitor that the US administration is considering a policy change toward Israel. Washington is seriously contemplating not vetoing UN Security Council resolutions on the settlements. Also, Washington might not restrain EU members from taking measures, such as enhancing the boycott on Israeli businesses active beyond the Green Line.

Many of the retired military generals have come out and criticized Netanyahu for his political ploy.  Six retired Israeli generals came out against the upcoming speech by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the U.S. Congress about Iran, arguing that it would embolden Iran by damaging Israel’s credibility with the White House.  “When the Israeli prime minister argues that his speech will stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, he is not only misleading Israel—he is actually strengthening Iran,” said Amnon Reshef, a former general who headed Israel’s armored corps.

So, if Netanyahu’s goal really were to save his country from Iran then why are his actions showing otherwise?  Why does his speech have to be two weeks before his reelection?  According to haaretz website, Netanyahu and his aides maintain that the issue of forestalling a dangerous deal with Iran was so urgent that the speech could not wait until after the election. If Netanyahu truly believed the speech was urgent then why did he postpone John Boehner’s original invitation date for February 11?  Also if Iran have any common sense, why will they nuke one of US biggest ally?  A nuclear weapon has not been used since World War 2, and it’s pretty much a clear understanding that any country using a nuclear bomb on another country will turn the whole world against them. The backfire from US and the world clearly shows that the world knows the real motive behind Netanyahu’s political ploy but will the Israeli electorate?

– Yutong Zhu

Sources:

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/191966#.VPTJCfnF_To

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/02/us-usa-israel-relationship-idUSKBN0LY1RE20150302

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/28/binyamin-netanyahu-congress-speech-israel

http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/a-special-place-in-hell/.premium-1.644984

http://www.wsj.com/articles/retired-israeli-generals-denounce-planned-netanyahu-speech-1425243565

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11 Comments

  1. nrassam3 says:

    I find that speech to be disrespectful to us Americans, we have people that we’ve trusted with our votes inviting foreigners to split us within our own boarders. I like the point that you brought up at the end, Iran knows its best is not to mess with Israel as everyone knows the true consequences. Saddam tried it, and they made an example out of him in front of the rest of the world.

  2. khospedales3 says:

    I stumbled upon this article recently regarding this issue:
    https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/03/02/brief-history-netanyahu-crying-wolf-iranian-nuclear-bomb/

    I know it’s a very one-sided article, but seeing all this evidence of baseless claims by Netanyahu increases my skepticism of the whole “protect Israel from Iran” narrative. Who are we or Israel or anyone else to say that all Iran wants to do is build nuclear weapons to take out Israel? It ties back to the blog post from two weeks ago regarding Iran’s nuclear program; should Iran have just as much of a right to alternative energy and defense as any other nation? I’m sure Iran knows that nuclear offense would send the Middle East into a state of turmoil that no one wants to see.

  3. dnicoloso3 says:

    Interesting perspective article, and it certainly seems like a lot of reasonable conclusions. Some of the details seem improbable, like “losing the support of US will be detrimental for Israel’s future”. I wonder how much Israel needs the US or the EU. It has sufficient military power to secure itself against Iran if it comes down to an open war. As evidenced by the recent threat of the Obama to shoot down the Israeli air craft, the primary concern for Israel is not whether the US will support them but whether the US will get in their way. Israel may not need the US support, but it needs the US to stay out of the way.

    • nsumi3 says:

      I would argue that Israel has a large investment in US support. In a sense, being our ally gives them a legitimacy and power on the world stage that would be significantly dampened otherwise. As we’ve been exploring in class, they’re surrounded on all sides by potentially hostile countries; it hardly seems like a good time to weaken their position in the US. But who knows, maybe if Israel was to lose a measure of US support they would be forced to engage their neighbors in a way (peacefully hopefully) that they haven’t really had to before.

  4. lalaninatl says:

    So I actually watched Netanyahu’s speech live and I immediately thought he was just here to gain popularity for reelection. I thought he could have used his visit here to try and help his people and ask for support to handle the situations in the Middle East but as seen in the media he ended being criticized by most everyone. My views on him are that he is still a politician looking out for himself and his country is just a plus if he can help them too.

  5. apabst3 says:

    I think is it pretty unbelievable that John Boehner went behind President Obama’s back and invited Netanyahu to give the speech even though, as you pointed out this speech is probably putting Israelis in danger. It seems like the Republicans made a very selfish political move. Why would you potential put an entire country in danger just to make a political statement. As much as Netanyahu and the Republicans will argue that this speech was for an urgent cause it seems pretty clear that they both had their own agendas.

  6. cryan3232 says:

    Using an prominent issue to gain support for reelection is nothing new but I still find this very interesting. It would be very interesting if this actually does prompt Iran into some reaction since his political stunt would now have caused a serious problem. However, I do think that the issues he is addressing are legitimate ones and, despite using the wrong platform, they should be addressed by our government.

  7. jkempa3 says:

    I agree the speech was a political ploy. I feel that despite the backdoor attempt to have the Israeli prime minister speak without the White House’s go ahead, the President could have taken action to prevent the entire situation from escalating like it has. Why could he have not simply invited Netanyahu for a closed door meeting to discuss the issues. I feel Israel has a legitimate claim to be worried about Iran’s nuclear program but shady politics is never a good route to take hen trying to gain support for an issue.

  8. owest3 says:

    You bring up a lot of good points at the end of your post. It does seem confusing that right before the election he would make a speech like this to the United States. Clearly not many people were a fan of his speech and it ended up turning most of congress against him. It didn’t make sense to me in the first place why he would proclaim to congress Iran’s right to have nuclear power with it being well known he wanted to use it against US’s ally Israel. Overall you brought up a lot of good questions regarding Iran’s Prime Minister!

  9. jackjenkins2015 says:

    I think that you bring up some great points in your blog. I’m glad that we have had the chance to discuss this topic in our class, because this US-Israel-Iran debate is incredibly important in current events. I do believe that this is largely a political stunt for Netanyahu’s re-election campaign. I am worried what this will do to Israeli relations with the rest of the world, especially by decreasing bipartisan support in the US. I also agree that it is very unlikely anyone will actually use a nuclear bomb; the world is very scared of them and the consequences for any country that uses one will be devastating. It will be interesting to see what will come out of this in the next few months as the UN closes in on a deal with Iran and Israel’s election takes place.

  10. jenglish7 says:

    The points you bring up are all salient, especially given the political environment in in the US. I find it especially disappointing that our own internal conflicts are bleeding our into our foreign policy. I feel that the conniving manner in which these politics are conducted is extremely disrespectful to the voters, but also disrespectful to the foreign leaders who are effectively being reduced to pawns in a slap-fest across the aisle.

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