Netanyahu’s Iran Proposals Deserve Serious Discussion After Election, Even if He Loses

Netanyahu failed not as a result of his ideas, but rather as a result of the way he went about things.

Haaretz Editorial
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Benjamin Netanyahu delivers his speech before Congress, March 3, 2015.Credit: AFP
Haaretz Editorial

Benjamin Netanyahu began his career in government as a diplomat, and as prime minister he has shown a preference for dealing with Iran through diplomacy. His address to the U.S. Congress on Tuesday did not diverge from this approach. After peeling away the warnings of another Holocaust, the childish comparison of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, with Haman, the wicked schemer from the Book of Esther and the stereotype of the Persian bazaar merchant, you find that Netanyahu proposed a broad deal between Iran and the world powers, under which the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program would be lifted if Iran changes its foreign policy.

Netanyahu demands that Iran stop its “aggression against its neighbors,” its support for international terrorism and its threats to annihilate Israel. He sees these not as conditions for signing an agreement, but rather as a multiyear process whose core is a detente between Iran and the international community. As far as he is concerned, a moderate Iran that is not hostile toward Israel could be a nuclear threshold state, without the prohibitions placed on it today.

One could dismiss Netanyahu’s proposals as being impractical, or argue, like U.S. President Barack Obama, that his speech contained nothing new. But in fact they are much more considered than his previous suggestions on the matter, and they are certainly preferable to those of his challengers in the Zionist Union party, who taunt Netanyahu for failing to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities. Netanyahu’s proposals deserve serious discussion after the election, even if Netanyahu loses. The question of Israel’s part in bringing about a change in the regional balance of powers will inevitably arise from this discussion.

Netanyahu failed not as a result of his ideas, but rather as a result of the way he went about things. Instead of conducting a quiet dialogue with Obama and the other world leaders over how to curb Iran’s hostility and over Israel’s contribution to this important goal, the politician in him overpowered the diplomat, dragging him into a damaging public wrestling match with the president of the United States and the Democratic Party, in an attempt to save his own sinking Likud party in Israel’s upcoming election.

As a result, his proposals did not fall on sympathetic ears in Washington, and the next government in Jerusalem will be forced to put its energy into restoring its relations with America, rather than into leading the vital effort to reduce the threats and dangers of war in the region.