Netanyahu Must Call Off His Speech to Congress

He is endangering Israel’s most important relationship and trampling the remnants of Israeli diplomacy.

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Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint meeting of Congress at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., May 24, 2011.
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint meeting of Congress at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., May 24, 2011.Credit: Bloomberg

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is sure that one speech to the U.S. Congress will stop the trend and torpedo the emerging nuclear deal between Washington and Tehran. Netanyahu thinks his mellifluous tones will make the minority such a great majority that even a presidential veto will crumble before it. Actually, Netanyahu wants to unleash the American legislators on their president, and that’s improper interference.

We can argue over the emerging deal with Iran and the bargaining points, but the American people are sovereign to decide who will govern them and in what direction their leader will lead. Iran froze its military nuclear program due to the U.S. invasion of Iraq under Barack Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, but the Americans have had enough of that. They voted for Obama to get their forces out of Iraq and Afghanistan and not enmesh them in another war.

From the outset Netanyahu had no chance to influence American politics in the direction he wants — whether Iran is the issue that really bothers him and not his chances at another term on the eve of an election. But then it became clear that the address to Congress was a dispute between the two big parties, that one of his two hosts — Vice President Joe Biden — was “busy with other obligations,” and that friends in the Democratic Party were being forced to choose between Netanyahu and Obama.

Right then Netanyahu should have understood that other important matters prevented him from fulfilling his desire to speak on Capitol Hill. All this came amid Obama’s refusal to meet with him during his visit.

If Netanyahu had trouble taking the hint, he got the message loud and clear at the end of the week via Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry’s warm meetings with opposition leader Isaac Herzog in Munich. They know that Netanyahu isn’t Israel, and amid his blunt challenge to the administration in insisting on addressing Congress, they don’t hesitate to show it.

Instead of acting responsibly as a prime minister should, Netanyahu insists on deepening the rift he has created with the Americans. He is thus endangering Israel’s most important relationship, behaving rashly as far as strategy is concerned and trampling the remnants of Israeli diplomacy.

Despite the embarrassing situation in which Netanyahu finds himself, he must prove that the country’s good is more important than his personal good. He must call off his speech to Congress.

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