Benjamin Netanyahu .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Though its precise details are being analyzed and discussed, the agreement reached between Iran and the six world powers seems to effectively legitimize Iran’s status as a threshold nuclear state.
This is a dramatic, though not surprising, diplomatic development with far-reaching negative ramifications – not just for Israel but for Sunni states, particularly the Saudis and other Gulf states.
However, the battle to prevent a bad deal from being finalized is not over. Focus will now shift to the US Congress, which has 60 days to review and vote on the agreement.
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Already, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has set up a task force to coordinate efforts to sway US public opinion and that of Congress.
But as the government readies itself to fight aggressively for changes in the agreement or to prevent its passage by Congress altogether, our leaders must be careful not to transform the Iran deal into a partisan issue.
The objective, which at present hardly looks attainable, is to muster the support of enough Democrats willing to join Republicans in opposing the deal so that, if push comes to shove, US President Barack Obama’s veto can be overridden by a two-thirds majority.
Clearly relations with the Obama administration, already at a nadir, will deteriorate further as the Netanyahu government ratchets up efforts to influence US opinions both inside Congress and among Americans.
Substantive issues connected to Iran’s nuclear weapons program divide the Obama and Netanyahu governments and these differences will be made very public in coming weeks.
However, Israel must fight the deal smartly.
The atmosphere on Capitol Hill is toxically partisan, not just with regard to the Iran deal. Whether it is Obama’s leadership style that has alienated Republicans or whether it is a stubborn unwillingness on the part of Republicans to cooperate with Democrats is irrelevant right now. Israel must do its best to navigate under difficult circumstances.
The first step in an Israeli-led anti-Iran deal campaign is to enlist leading politicians who are not members of Netanyahu’s government. Figures such as opposition leader Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni of the Zionist Union and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, among others, will be crucial to the lobbying effort on Capitol Hill, particularly among Democrats.
Opposition to the Iran deal crosses party lines in Israel.
It is not unique to the Likud or to right-wing parties.
It should be the same in the US.
Second, the Israeli campaign against the deal must avoid personal attacks on the US president. Lobbying efforts must focus on the issues. Democrats will rally around their president if they perceive him to be the subject of baseless ad hominem accusations.
Third, Israel must make it clear that it does not oppose – and never has opposed – a deal with Iran. With Hezbollah and Hamas on its northern and southern borders, Israel, more than any other country in the Middle East, has an interest in a diplomatic as a opposed to a military solution to Iran’s nuclear weapons program. If anything, Israel is opposed to the present deal because it actually increases the chances of a military conflict with Iran.
Fourth, Israel should work to form an informal alliance with countries like Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states that share Israel’s concerns about a nuclear Iran.
Democrats should know that there are Sunni states concerned enough about the Iran deal that they are even willing to cooperate with the Zionists.
Finally, Israel must make it clear that America’s security is at stake, not just America’s allies. America is not doing Israel a favor by opposing the deal. It is also looking out for its own interests.
The long-term success of a deal with Iran depends on building a strong consensus. Democrats know that without broad bipartisan support, the deal will not live past the Obama administration, if a Republican president is elected in November 2016. The stakes are too high to allow a chance to stop Iran’s nuclear program to slip away. Pushing through a deal that fails to convince a strong majority of Congress will only pave the way for the next confrontation with Iran.