Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dramatically, effectively — and perhaps, dangerously — raised the stakes on Iran in his speech to Congress yesterday.
It was great political theater; one observer likened it to a Republican response to the State of the Union address, but on a grander scale (and with more anticipatory hype). Netanyahu’s apocalyptic language likely resonated for many Israelis and certainly spoke to hundreds of Congress members, who leapt to their feet dozens of times at the prime minister’s clever (and prop-free) mixture of stark facts, exhortations and schmaltz.
In so baldly and boldly challenging President Obama, Netanyahu raised the stakes for the administration, which now owes the American public a point-by-point rebuttal. But the Israeli prime minister also raised the stakes for himself by offering no long-term alternative, no superior path to disarmament.
He pointed out the risks to the Obama strategy, to be sure. But there are risks to his strategy, too. Read more.
Obama Dismisses Netanyahu’s Congress Speech As ‘Nothing New’
US President Barack Obama said Tuesday afternoon that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “didn’t offer any viable alternatives” to the current negotiations with Iran in his speech to Congress earlier in the day.
The White House had said Obama would likely not watch the entire address but the president said he had read a transcript of Netanyahu’s speech.
“As far as I can tell, there was nothing new,” he told reporters ahead of a meeting with Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.
In his speech, Netanyahu assailed an emerging nuclear deal with Iran and told Congress that the negotiations between the two countries would “all but guarantee” that Tehran gets nuclear weapons to the detriment of the entire world. The invitation to Netanyahu to address Congress, extended by House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, has triggered a political furor in the United States. Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s opponents in Israel accused him of staging the speech as an campaign ploy. Read more.
Netanyahu’s Devastating, Irrevocable Indictment Of Obama
It was widely suggested, ahead of Benjamin Netanyahu’s spectacularly controversial address to Congress on Tuesday, that the prime minister would have to deliver the speech of his life in order to justify the damage he would inevitably be causing to relations between his government and the Obama Administration. In the event, Netanyahu did deliver the speech of his life… and caused devastating, presumably irrevocable damage to his relationship with President Barack Obama.
On CNN, former administration official Martin Indyk called ties between the two leaders “toxic.” And that was moments before Netanyahu began his address. It’s hard to imagine the adjective that would best describe feelings in the Oval Office once the prime minister was done.
The next meeting between the two men will be fascinating to contemplate. And while Obama will hope even more fervently now that there will be no next meeting — that Netanyahu will fail to win reelection — the prime minister will not have done his electoral prospects any harm at all with this address. Many undecided Israelis will be asking themselves whether, in a moment of crisis, they can envisage Isaac Herzog holding the American parliament similarly mesmerized in support of a cause of passionate concern for Israel, and the answer will be no. Read more.