The furor caused by Congressional Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to Binyamin Netanyahu to address Congress about Iran has brought about furious debate both in Israel and America. The fault lines are pretty much along partisan lines, with the Democrats in the US and Israeli leftists lining up against the planned speech, and the Republicans and Israeli right-wing for it.
The reasons for objecting to Netanyahu’s address appear to be based either on protocol – the White House claims it wasn’t informed in advance of the invitation – or on the “let’s give peace a chance” point of view.
Countering these claims, it has been clearly shown that the claim of broken protocol was an invention of the White House itself:
The truth about the incident, in which the White House complained that it was terribly wrong for Netanyahu to accept House Speaker John Boehner’s (R., Ohio) invitation without first notifying the administration, was made evident by a correction added to a New York Times article that greatly changed the timeline of events that effected the situation.
Here’s the correction, added on Jan. 30, a day after the article was published:
Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel accepted Speaker John A. Boehner’s invitation to address Congress. He accepted after the administration had been informed of the invitation, not before.
So the White House had actually already been informed that Netanyahu was invited to speak to Congress. The administration was in no way blindsided by the announcement, even though that is how they chose to frame it to the media.
As for the demand to “give peace a chance”, this is essentially playing Russian roulette with Israeli lives and indeed Israel’s very existence. Since Israel is the initial primary target of Iran, it surely behooves the world to listen to the official voice of the intended victim before signing away our future. As Rob Miller wrote in the Times of Israel:
Netanyahu, whose country gets threatened with destruction by Iran about every other week decided to accept Boehner’s invitation to speak to congress and help provide an impetus for legislation on Iranian sanctions that’s in both Israel and America’s interest .
The reasons supporting Netanyahu’s speech are many and various. I bring you here a small sampling.
Ed Rogers in the Washington Post (h/t Henry) gives us two big reasons why Netanyahu should not cancel his visit:
First, the prime minister should not cancel his trip just because the White House and the Democrats are whining about it. They are not upset because there wasn’t the usual coordination on this invitation between the White House and Congress; they are upset because Netanyahu intimidates the Democrats and exposes the weakness of their commitment to stopping Iran from having nuclear weapons. Netanyahu’s presence will put in vivid relief the lip service the Democrats give to the U.S.-Israel alliance and Washington’s ambivalent support for Israel under President Obama.
The second reason Netanyahu needs to address Congress is that Obama is not making the case that America must be prepared to do whatever it takes to stop Iran from making a nuclear weapon. In fact, Obama appears to be doing the opposite. […] Alarm bells are ringing and bipartisan experts are cautioning against the trajectory the Obama administration is taking with its negotiations. Obama seems to be focused on making a unilateral agreement that would allow him to say in one of the future books he plans on writing about himself that Iran didn’t have a single nuclear weapon under his watch. That seems to be driving the train here, but that isn’t going to keep us safe in the long run.
J.E. Dyer, a retired US Naval Officer, writes in Liberty Unyielding “Come and speak, Bibi“:
That fact is that no amount of “cooperating” with Barack Obama or his policies will result in preventing a nuclear-armed Iran. There is no political option for Netanyahu of satisfying Obama and obtaining thereby the result that Iran doesn’t get the bomb.
Netanyahu of all people has to be clear-eyed about that. But I believe many ordinary Americans and Israelis see it as well.
Average people may not be able to cite the timeline the world faces this spring. But it has been scheduled since November 2014 to come to a head with a deadline, for a comprehensive agreement between Iran and the P5+1, on 24 March. And no one with common sense will be surprised that, just today, the U.S. government has backed down from holding to that date as a deadline.
The month of March promises to be one of the most fraught in human history. As it appears now, the Obama administration will clarify for the world that it has no intention of holding Iran to deadlines or verifiable agreements. Israel, the only nation left to take some kind of focused action that could at least delay Iran’s progress, will decide whether she will have a prime minister who sees the necessity for that.
This isn’t a political game. The fate of nations hangs in the balance. A bomb for Iran isn’t the only thing shaping the crisis point either. The territorial jockeying of Iran and Islamic State has just expanded the Syria-Iraq war to Jordan. Both Iran and Islamic State are trying to bring the war to Israel: to make Israel insert herself into it, and thus expand it catastrophically, as a self-defense measure.
There is nothing setting boundaries for how big this conflict can get. The Middle East has not seen such a period of open-ended opportunity, unbounded by the dominant power of an outside hegemon, since the 1400s, when the European West and the Ottoman Muslims were fighting over the future of the old Byzantine Empire. The “Westphalian” order and its post-1919 arrangements has all but broken down from the coast of Lebanon and Syria to the Zagros Mountains of Iran. This is not something we will all survive with our life of five years ago, or our existing borders, intact.
What Netanyahu knows at this hour is that he must prepare Israel as best he can. Israel may have to act. He needs to ensure that she has the strongest possible strategic position from which to do so. And surveying the geopolitical landscape, he must see, whether critics like it or not, that Israel’s greatest concentrated source of support is the people of the United States.
It is before this people that he needs to stand and make his case. He has to come to the people’s house and say the words that need to be said. Obama will not do it. The shame of that is a matter for another time; what counts now is that Netanyahu must.
But it will also clarify that Obama won’t have a free hand to try to thwart Israel, if she does act. It would be a mistake to count out the American people’s support for Israel. […]
If Netanyahu and the U.S. Congress can establish that, on 3 March, it may be possible for the looming crisis to pass without an evil outcome.
Read the whole article, a heartfelt plea for Netanyahu to speak in order to save not just Israel, but America too along with Western civilization.
Ruthie Blum in Yisrael Hayom concurs:
Still, even gestures carry weight. It is crucial for sane politicians and members of the public to have spelled out for them what they already know in their hearts and minds to be true. Netanyahu has many weaknesses, but one of his greatest strengths is the ability to articulate a situation and a position in plain language. For this alone, his trip to Washington will have been worth all the hyped-up controversy.
Read also this excellent article from the Algemeiner, Speechless on Iran’s nukes, which details the manufactured White House outrage over the speech and the catastrophic dangers looming over Israel should this terrible deal go through.
Regarding the domestic calls to Netanyahu not to go to Congress because it might influence the upcoming elections, Israel’s Attorney-General says there is no legal problem in airing the speech:
Weinstein was responding to an appeal to the Central Election Committee by Meretz leader Zahava Gal-On, who sought to prohibit broadcast of the controversial March 3 speech on the grounds that it would constitute illegal election campaigning, Army Radio reported.
Weinstein’s response on the matter said that it could be not yet be determined whether Netanyahu’s speech will include campaign content and added that the speech’s timing was decided based on external schedules related to the Iranian nuclear issue, and had no relation to the date of elections in Israel.
The speech, Weinstein wrote, “has a very clear news value, and therefore when looking to the future and before the speech has been made, one cannot decide that the sheer fact it will take place constitutes illegal election propaganda.”
Weinstein added that the speech is “substantially related to the prime minister’s work and therefore one cannot say it enters the realm of electioneering.”
As to the concerns of Israeli politicians, particularly those on the left, that Netanyahu is going to cause a split with the US over his speech, Boaz Bismuth says that history forgive Netanyahu, even if Obama won’t:
Our monotonous pundits tell us Netanyahu needs to be smart, not right, on the Iranian issue. But Netanyahu mostly needs to be right — and not look to find favor in the eyes of Obama. If we elected leaders based on their subservience to the American administration, we can assume the political lives of Ben-Gurion and Begin would have been much shorter.
Obama will not be forgiving, even if Netanyahu cancels his speech. What is more important, however, is that history is just as unlikely to forgive.
The American Administration’s displeasure has been expressed by Obama’s instructions to lawmakers to boycott the speech, and the acquiescence by Vice President Joe Biden and other some Democrats to this demand.
Two prominent black Democrats in the House of Representatives are vowing to skip Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress next month, a move that a White House insider says was put in motion by the Obama administration.
John Lewis of Georgia and G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina both said Friday that they disapproved when House Speaker John Boehner invited the Israeli leader to address a joint session of Congress on March 3 without consulting President Barack Obama first.
That disapproval apparently was orchestrated, or at least strongly encouraged, by the White House through communications with lawmakers connected to the Congressional Black Caucus.
‘I’m not saying the president called anyone personally,’ a current White House staffer told Daily Mail Online.
‘But yeah, the White House sent a message to some at the CBC that they should suddenly be very upset about the speech.’
VP Biden’s snub has amplified the tensions between the US and Israel:
“Given the stakes and the hour, Biden’s decision to not even listen to Netanyahu’s speech is an abdication of his most basic responsibilities,” David Brog, the executive director of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), told JNS.org. “It is the victory of politics over duty.”
Probably the only people happy about the controversy are the Iranians:
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said that […] “the ensuing controversy, […] instead focuses on strained U.S.-Israel relations and domestic American politics.”
“The Iranian regime must be thrilled,” Cooper told JNS.org. “As the clock ticks down to a March  deadline [for a political framework agreement between world powers and Iran], the centrifuges continue to spin, intercontinental ballistic missiles are developed, and Iran’s direct involvement in threatening Israel’s northern border is on display. But none of this evokes protest from President Obama.”
In response to these snubs, pro-Israel advocates in Washington have warned US legislators that this could damage them at the polls,
In a joint statement, the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI) and the Christians United for Israel Action Fund (CUFI) said, “As representatives of two proudly pro-Israel organizations, we urge members of Congress to do the right thing for the U.S. and Israel. And for those who would turn their backs on Israel and boycott its leader — they are no friends of Israel, and we pledge to do our best to educate voters about their undermining of Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship at this crucial hour.”
American opposition to Netanyahu’s speech is emanating not only from the Administration but from the anti-Zionist (no matter what they claim) Jewish organization J Street who have been running an active campaign to undermine Netanyahu. The ADL has slammed their repugnant campaign:
Though it bills itself as a “pro-Israel, pro-peace” group, J Street has actively lobbied against sanctions on the Iranian regime, devoting its energies to attacking Netanyahu almost exclusively. Its latest petition campaign, around the slogan “Israel’s Prime Minister is not the spokesman for all Jews,” is directed at Netanyahu’s forthcoming speech to the US Congress on the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
“At the height of the controversy surrounding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled speech to Congress, J Street’s petition campaign that attempts to distance itself and American Jews from Israel’s duly elected prime minister is inflammatory and repugnant,” ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said in a statement. “It exacerbates an already heated and politicized moment for U.S. Israel relations at a critical juncture in the West’s negotiations with Iran.”
J Street’s mysterious polling methods were also called into question after they claimed that “84% of American Jews support Obama over Iran”:
A number of social media commenters suggested that the numbers provided by J Street were entirely fabricated. And by J Street’s own admission, the results are actually contradictory.
A report in the Christian Science Monitor, which quoted the 84 percent figure without independently verifying it, noted that the J Street “survey registered a strong sense of connection to Mr. Netanyahu among American Jews, even though its results suggest they don’t support his policies. Asked to gauge on a scale of 1 to 100 their feelings of warmth toward various leaders and personalities, respondents gave Netanyahu a 61 – higher than Obama (49) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (57).”
Moreover, a small line of text underneath the ’84 percent’ claim – “strong support for progress made by P5+1″ – indicates that respondents were asked an entirely different question, meaning that J Street’s claim that the vast majority of American Jews reject Netanyahu’s stance contains a heavy dollop of spin.
The offense was compounded by a screenshot (above) which showed that among the petition’s signatories were Nazi leaders “Adolf Hitler” and “Rudolf Hess,” as well as the American black nationalist leader “Malcolm X.”
The trickery was also exposed by Harry’s Place contributor Adloyada who documents how she registered for the J Street poll using a pseudonym “Hephzibah Mouse”. 🙂
Thankfully, after all this brouhaha, Netanyahu is standing firm on delivering his speech before the crucial March deadline, while admitting that it has caused controversy:
Acknowledging “a profound disagreement with the United States administration and the rest of the P5+1 over the offer that has been made to Iran,” Netanyahu added, “I intend to speak about this issue before the March 24th deadline and I intend to speak in the US Congress because Congress might have an important role on a nuclear deal with Iran.”
The March 24 deadline refers to a Congressional vote on the Iran sanctions deal, which comes a week ahead of the March 31 deadline of international negotiations with Iran.
“Israel’s survival is not a partisan issue, not in Israel nor in the United States. This doesn’t mean that from time to time Israeli governments have not had serious disagreements with American administrations over the best way to achieve the security of Israel,” he said.
“Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, declared Israel’s independence in the face of strong opposition from US Secretary of State George Marshall,” he said, ticking off a lineup of disputes from levi Eshkol to Ariel Sharon. “Disagreements over Israel’s security have occurred between prime ministers in Israel from the left and from the right and American presidents from both parties.”
I shall davka let Obama have the last word:
On Monday, Obama said he and Netanyahu had “a very real difference around Iran, around sanctions,” but suggested that not wanting him to speak, and not inviting him to the White House was meant to safeguard the strong bond between Israel and the US by not appearing partisan so close to the Israeli elections.
“This is the US-Israeli relationship that extends beyond parties. It has to do with that unbreakable bond that we feel and our commitment to Israel’s security and the shared values that we have. The way to preserve that is to ensure that it doesn’t get clouded by what could be perceived as partisan politics…. That’s something we have to guard against.””
Obama ought to listen to his own words and take them on board. the only one turning the bilateral relationship and the danger of Iranian nukes into a partisan issue is Obama himself.