US Secretary of State John Kerry testifies before a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the Iran nuclear agreement in Washington, July 28, 2015. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Although the P5+1 (US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany) and Iran announced a long-term nuclear accord last month in Vienna, the wrangling continues. The deal may have been swiftly approved by the United Nations Security Council, but the agreement continues to be scrutinized from every possible angle.
A significant final hurdle remains, as the US Congress is tasked with voting on the deal in September. The fierce congressional debate is in full throttle, with senior White House officials facing tough questioning at a series of tense hearings.
The administration though has launched a no-holds-barred campaign in an attempt to secure a congressional rubber stamp for the deal. The White House communications machine is working overtime to paint an alarming picture of the alternative.
President Barack Obama himself warned of a zero-sum game, claiming that a simple choice exists: the current agreement or war. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry has evoked the prospect of isolation for the world’s sole superpower, should Congress dare flex its muscles.
As the global standard-bearer for democracy, such heated debate in the United States is entirely legitimate and healthy.
Congressional oversight provides an opportunity for the American people and their elected leaders to hear first-hand both sides of this critical issue. Ultimately, each member of Congress will be required to take a fateful decision, by deciding what is in the best interests of the US.
Such a deliberation includes weighing the impact of the deal on America’s geopolitical interests and consequently the effect on its most valued allies. In this regard, there is one point of discussion which has taken center stage – what is good for Israel? This question requires no debate; the Iran deal is bad for Israel. Proponents and opponents of the deal alike need not ask what is in Israel’s best interests.
The answer has been given unequivocally, loud and clear. Israel is united in opposition to the agreement – Left to Right, government to opposition and everything in between. Any distortion of this salient fact is a cynical falsehood.
And yet, we have seen Secretary Kerry cherry-pick selective quotes from long-forgotten Israeli security figures, themselves eager for a momentary return to the spotlight, as supposed “proof” that Israeli support for the deal exists. Kerry has also issued a specific warning to members of Congress that should they reject the nuclear accord, then inevitable Israeli isolation will be on their conscience.
Meanwhile, President Obama maintains that the deal serves Israel’s national security interests. The White House message to Israel’s supporters in Congress and beyond is that a friend to Israel can also be a friend to the nuclear agreement.
This is nothing more than fantasy. The crystal-clear reality is one of uniform Israeli opposition to a deal which hands a short-term windfall to the terrorist armies which prowl our borders and in the longterm hands the nuclear keys to a regime which advocates our genocide. How could Israel’s response be anything other than vociferous disapproval? Even the most casual observer of Israeli politics will know that divisions run deep on practically every issue and that cross-party agreement is a rarity. And yet, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s powerful opposition to the nuclear agreement has been echoed from across the Knesset. Such is the unanimity that in the days immediately following the deal’s announcement, opposition leader Isaac Herzog offered to travel to Washington to lobby against the agreement, commenting, “Our national security is not a matter of dispute.”
Other senior opposition figures who rarely miss an opportunity to take aim at the prime minister have also voiced their strong disapproval of the accord. Yair Lapid called it “a bad deal which endangers the security of Israel and the security of the world.” Meanwhile, Tzipi Livni said in Newsweek that she is “gravely concerned” as the deal leaves Iran “empowered both financially and militarily, while it continues its aggression and sponsorship of terror.” In a country too often painfully divided, Israel is speaking with one clear and powerful voice.
Disagreement between Washington and Jerusalem is of course nothing new.
Recently, these differences have revolved largely around the Palestinian issue. And on this subject, we have a plethora of divergent views within Israel’s vibrant democracy. As a result, supporters of Israel both in Congress and within the Jewish communal world have been able to oppose Israeli government policy while maintaining their pro-Israel credentials.
This calculation simply does not work when it comes to the deal with Iran. Individuals and organizations professing support for the agreement place themselves firmly outside the Israeli consensus, way beyond mainstream Israel. A pro-Israel stance must by definition operate in Israel’s best interests. To believe that what Israel really needs is the polar opposite of a unified voice spanning the spectrum of Israeli political leadership, is arrogance in the extreme.
The Iran nuclear debate in Congress will rumble on during the coming weeks both on Capitol Hill and in the media.
Hopefully, it will shine a light on the myriad concerns that the Vienna agreement leaves unanswered. However, one issue is beyond debate – Israel’s unquestionable, complete opposition to the deal. Any contention that fictional internal Israeli divisions exist is sheer manipulation.
Such Israeli unanimity exposes the fallacy that support for the agreement could ever serve Israel’s interests.The author served as chief of staff to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu until earlier this year and is currently president of 3H Global.