Can Netanyahu thwart a bad agreement between US and Iran?

The US president wants to proceed along his current negotiations path, hoping to reach what he deems to be, a peaceful outcome to the Iranian problem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanks Speaker Boehner following his address to a joint meeting of Congress in the Rayburn Room of the US Capitol, May 24, 2011 (photo credit: SPEAKER.GOV)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanks Speaker Boehner following his address to a joint meeting of Congress in the Rayburn Room of the US Capitol, May 24, 2011
(photo credit: SPEAKER.GOV)
Can Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thwart a bad agreement between US and Iran? I wish he could. Unfortunately, US President Barack Obama has a mind of his own. The US president wants to proceed along his current negotiations path, hoping to reach what he deems to be, a peaceful outcome to the Iranian problem.
The Israeli prime minister and the American president disagree on the merits of such an agreement. Netanyahu believes that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is seeking to deceive the US, the remainder of the P5+1 countries and the rest of the world, by abandoning an immediate dash to the fabrication of an atomic bomb, postponing it to a future, just round the corner date, while rewarding Iran with lifting of the economic sanctions in return. He believes that as long as Iran is allowed to maintain its means for enriching Uranium, it remains a threshold nuclear power with the potential of becoming an actual nuclear power in a flash.
Netanyahu is right.
Recent history appears to support his position. The Iranians have already got caught trying to conceal activities and production facilities designed to propel them toward a nuclear power status. They cannot be trusted to stand by an agreement calling upon them to cease their dash toward a nuclear bomb unless they are stripped of the means to accomplish it.
Should President Obama succeed in having the Iranians agree to cease their race toward the bomb, he will be satisfied. The president believes that UN supervision would safeguard an Iranian compliance. Netanyahu knows (from experience) that the UN or the US will be too slow and too late to detect any violation of the proposed arrangement between the US and Iran. He does not believe that compliance is achievable as long as the Iranians retain the means for moving on their nuclear ambitions. There is no doubt. The two leaders are staring at each other across a considerable chasm.
Netanyahu has been voicing his concern over many different podiums. He was able to convince the majority of the US senators and Congress representatives about the gravity of letting the Iranian regime keep their nuclear infrastructure as part of an agreement. And until about two weeks ago, the US Senate was ready to derail an upcoming bad agreement between the US and Iran. There was a 67-vote, veto-overriding, bi-partisan majority in the US Senate. A majority geared up and prepared to sign a new bill imposing new economic sanctions on Iran should the Iranians continue to play a delay game and refuse to come to terms.
President Obama urged Congress to drop the sanctions bill. He claimed that the new bill at this sensitive stage would upset the progress in the ongoing negotiations. It would shatter existing agreements, and would take us back to a last resort, a potential military option designed to stop Iran’s race to a nuclear status—a scenario he has been trying so hard to avoid.
But the Republican controlled Senate, including democratic senator Bob Menendez and a couple of others refused to budge. They were in synch with Netanyahu’s position. They were convinced that the only means to convince the Iranians to do away with their tough stand and yield to the American stipulations is the threat of further sanctions. And they could force their way on the president even at the prospect of a presidential veto. They had the power; they had the votes.
This was then. It’s no longer the case.
What happened?
On Wednesday, January 21, 2015, US House Speaker John Boehner extended an invitation to Netanyahu to come to the US and address a special joint session of the US Congress on the subject of the Iranian Nuclear Project.
John Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu was a politically motivated bidding. The speaker breached protocol by inviting a head of state without consulting with the president; in fact, going behind the president’s back, while passing over the congressional Democrats as well. He used Netanyahu as a pawn in his political maneuvering around the president and his Democratic party. To make things worse, he was planning on manipulating Netanyahu into becoming a pointed arrow, aimed at the butt of the president’s Iranian strategy, in an attempt to upset it.
Consequently, The White House has already declared that neither the president nor the secretary of state would meet with the Israeli prime minister during his visit in March. The Democratic Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, Senator Dianne Feinstein and many in her caucus have expressed dissatisfaction with John Boehner’s invitation and its timing. And now, even Senator Menendez, the underwriter of the sanctions bill has agreed to postpone the vote and take it off the table, let the president move on to try to conclude the negotiations with Iran without a congressional meddling.
Netanyahu’s planned visit to the special joint session of congress has backfired. If until now it looked like a potentially successful bi-partisan effort to redirect the US/Iranian nuclear negotiations and bring it to conclusion, more consistent with Netanyahu’s position, Netanyahu’s visit, embroiled inside Capitol Hill politics contributed to a reversal of this path.
The democratic leaders whose respect for Netanyahu and strong support of the Jewish state are well documented have now decided to stand by their president and cast off their conscience. Once Netanyahu’s visit appeared to be a Republican political ploy, politics took precedence over the democrats’ sense of right and wrong. They opted for a political victory over the Speaker and his congressional Republicans. This political victory was substantiated by one senior democratic aid in the Senate who claimed: “It’s a small win for our side…” He continued, “Democrats were also embittered as Netanyahu’s planned visit became a partisan affair.”
It should not have transpired the way it did. Netanyahu is the prime minister of Israel, and as such, he represents Israel’s interests. And he does a great job at that. But the invitation process dressed up the Israeli leader in Republican costumes. It’s wrong for Bibi and it’s bad for Israel.
Netanyahu must find a way to the heart of the embittered democrats; he must make sincere efforts to appear non-partisan before coming to Washington. He must make sure that the democrats in Congress second Boehner’s invitation before he shows up. Otherwise, his speech, as great as it’s going to be, will fail to get translated to actions. And action is the only thing that matters at the end.
The writer is currently a talk show host at Paltalk News Network (PNN). He served as an intelligence expert for the Israeli government and was a professor at Northwestern University. He is the author of Fundamentals of Voice Quality Engineering in Wireless Networks, and more recently, 72 Virgins. For further information you may visit