Netanyahu Lost His Iran Bet, but His Next Gamble May Be Disastrous

After the deal was announced, the prime minister's appearance was that of a desperate gambler who had lost everything. But now he wants to wreck what’s left of U.S.-Israel relations.

Netanyahu addresses Congress, March 3, 2015.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint meeting of the United States Congress in the House chamber at the U.S. Capitol, March 3, 2015. AFP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks defeated. He was ashen-faced on Tuesday next to the Dutch foreign minister at their joint press conference in Jerusalem; his appearance was that of a desperate gambler who had lost everything. The Iranian nuclear agreement, against which he had vigorously and repeatedly warned, had become a fait accompli. The deal over which he had declared political war on the president of the United States, while breaking all the rules of diplomatic relations between friendly countries, had become a reality, for better or worse.

Even before the details of the agreement were known, and without having any idea what was or wasn’t included, senior Likud officials were firing cannon shells through the electronic media. Talking points that had been sent to them in advance contained three main points: 1. The agreement is bad, terrible, and awful; 2. If not for Netanyahu, the situation would have been much worse, much earlier; 3. The opposition is to blame and ought to be ashamed for not being supportive enough/for being critical now/for not standing tensely quiet at the side of the prime minister, meaning the State of Israel.

Obviously. The opposition is to blame for the centrifuges spinning, the uranium being enriched, and the slaughter during the six consecutive years of Netanyahu’s rule.

Netanyahu deserves credit for stubbornly putting the nuclear issue on the global agenda, significantly contributing to the intensified sanctions on Iran. On the other hand, he lost his brakes when he did not hesitate to hook up with the Republican Party in its campaign against U.S. President Barack Obama. Sometimes it’s hard to know where Sheldon Adelson, the biggest Republican donor, ends and Netanyahu begins.

The prime minister himself hastened Tuesday to call on the opposition to “put petty politics aside and unite for the State of Israel’s national interests,” as if the Iranian nukes hadn’t served as an effective political weapon for him during every recent election campaign.

Netanyahu’s spokespeople said he plans to “kill himself” pursuing the last remaining option for scuttling the deal – preventing its ratification by the U.S. House of Representatives – by persuading Democratic congressmen to defect to the Republican camp and vote against their president. The destruction and devastation he avoided inflicting on the nuclear facilities scattered throughout Iran, he now wants to wreck on what’s left of U.S.-Israel relations. Here we again see his compulsive gambler syndrome: After losing his pants, he’s now putting his underwear on the roulette wheel in a move that experts on American politics say hasn’t much of a chance.

In this context, the call by Likud ministers for “internal cohesion that’s been lacking until now” sounds pathetic. Why exactly is Netanyahu demanding that Labor’s Isaac Herzog, Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid, Meretz’s Zehava Galon and Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avigdor Lieberman join him? So they can share responsibility for the worsening of the fight between Israel and the leader of the free world?

Herzog and Lapid were competing with each other on Tuesdayto show whose patriotism was greater. Lapid drew first with an interview he gave to a foreign television network. But Herzog landed a crushing blow on him by tweeting that he had spoken with the prime minister and would soon be traveling to the United States “to advance a package of security measures to suit the new situation.”

Perhaps Herzog has been named defense minister and nobody told us. Perhaps something else is going on between him and Netanyahu, and under the pretext of the “new situation,” the chairman of Zionist Union plans to bring his party into Netanyahu’s government.