The speech is over, with applause duly resounding on Capitol Hill, and negotiations with Iran ahead of a framework agreement continue. Criticism of the Israeli spectacle in the United States capital addressed all there was to be said, and critics will now start to gauge the temperature of the cold shoulder the U.S. administration will show toward Israel.
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During the entire noisy exchanges that took place the responsibility of one person, House Speaker John Boehner, never came up for discussion. He was the one who invited Netanyahu to speak before a joint session of the representatives of the American people. The argument is not over Boehner’s right to invite whoever he wants to, just as Netanyahu is far from being an unwilling captive. Netanyahu initiated the invitation, he coordinated the timing and his political goals are plainly in sight.
However, it is precisely the U.S. Congress, which is so friendly toward Israel and so concerned about its security and well-being, that could have been expected to remove an obstacle before the blind, especially when he is driving under the influence.
A demonstration meant to shame the speaker, staged by a few dozen Democrats who stayed away, is no substitute for good advice, especially since it was only part of the partisan political struggle in the U.S. The voice of close friends, who unconditionally ratify the annual aid package to Israel – larger than that given to any other country receiving U.S. aid – should have been heard loud and clear. It should have stated that “Netanyahu’s appearance is dangerous to Israel. It will damage strategic relations with the Administration and may insult a large part of the American public which foots the bill for the aid, and if Netanyahu doesn’t understand this we must him help do so.”
The Congress doesn’t need Netanyahu to explain the essence of the accord with Iran. It has the authority to legislate laws that will foil its signing. It can impose new sanctions on Iran and withhold increasing the budget required for the monitoring system that will supervise Iran’s nuclear installations, thus voiding the accord of any content. However, when it invites Netanyahu to deliver a speech it makes Israel a partner in decision-making over the future of Iran’s nuclear program, making the U.S. a negotiator on behalf of Israel.
The Congressmen who applauded him gave him “power of attorney,” enabling him to determine that the accord shaping up is “bad,” even though its details have yet to be worked out. Moreover, members of Congress, led by Boehner, will use Netanyahu to prove that the accord, when it is signed, endangers Israel and the world. They thereby gave Netanyahu a right to veto American policy.
There could be no greater and more important political victory than the status granted to Netanyahu. However, this victory is fraught with danger. Members of Congress did not ask him, nor did he offer an answer to the question of what happens if no deal is reached. They already know the answer, since Tuesday they gave him approval to use the “Israeli option” if he doesn’t succeed in thwarting the accord.
Netanyahu’s Israel will not wait to see if Iran attains nuclear weapons. The very existence of a nuclear program is the real threat in its view. Let’s assume that Netanyahu succeeds in foiling the reaching of an accord and Iran continues with its uranium enrichment program and Israel decides to attack its nuclear installations. Who will bear the responsibility for the destruction wreaked by this armed confrontation? John Boehner, who only provided the stage for Netanyahu’s rhetoric? Members of Congress who rose to their feet but didn’t warn him or Israel of the calamity that might befall Israel as a result of the sweeping success of the speech? They were only being polite.
Will anyone be able to complain that the Administration is not cooperating with Israel in its war with Iran after Netanyahu vetoed an accord?