How Obama Inadvertently Helps Bibi
The administration continues in its attempt to marginalize Prime Minister Netanyahu ahead of his speech on Iran. And the efforts appear to be backfiring.
Jeffrey Goldberg tells some important truths in today’s column, Danger Ahead for Obama on Iran:
I’m fairly sure Netanyahu will deliver a powerful speech, in part because he is eloquent in English and forceful in presentation. But there is another reason this speech may be strong: Netanyahu has a credible case to make. Any nuclear agreement that allows Iran to maintain a native uranium-enrichment capability is a dicey proposition; in fact, any agreement at all with an empire-building, Assad-sponsoring, Yemen-conquering, Israel-loathing, theocratic terror regime is a dicey proposition.
The deal that seems to be taking shape right now does not fill me—or many others who support a diplomatic solution to this crisis—with confidence. Reports suggest that the prospective agreement will legitimate Iran’s right to enrich uranium (a “right” that doesn’t actually exist in international law); it will allow Iran to maintain many thousands of operating centrifuges; and it will lapse after 10 or 15 years, at which point Iran would theoretically be free to go nuclear. (The matter of the sunset clause worries me, but I’m more worried that the Iranians will find a way to cheat their way out of the agreement even before the sun is scheduled to set.) …
This is a very dangerous moment for Obama and for the world. He has made many promises, and if he fails to keep them—if he inadvertently (or, God forbid, advertently) sets Iran on the path to the nuclear threshold, he will be forever remembered as the president who sparked a nuclear-arms race in the world’s most volatile region, and for breaking a decades-old promise to Israel that the United States would defend its existence and viability as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
And as Goldberg noted, three years ago Obama promised in one of Goldberg’s columns, “We’ve got Israel’s back.”
Goldberg in agreeing with Netanyahu also agrees that Obama, it appears, has failed to protect “Israel’s back,” when it comes to Iran.
If that was all Goldberg had written, it would have been great. But he wrote more.
Instead of blaming Obama for misreading his newfound friends, Goldberg opens the column blaming Netanyahu for “turn[ing] a moment in which President Obama should have been busy defending his pursuit of a nuclear agreement with a dangerous adversary into a stress test of the U.S.-Israel relationship.”
Except it wasn’t Netanyahu who did that. It was the Obama administration. One of the key arguments marshaled against Netanyahu by the White House and its cheerleaders was that the administration had been “blindsided” by the invitation to him to speak before Congress, turned out to be false, as Ed Lasky documented. More importantly, the story was shown to be false by a correction in The New York Times, which, for all practical purposes, has been acting as assistant White House press secretary regarding Iran.
Goldberg believes that Netanyahu and the Republicans are making the administration’s handling of Iran a partisan issue. But if they weren’t making noise about the deal, who would be? Goldberg is wrong, if Netanyahu was silent there would be a lot less discussion of the dangers of the emerging Iran’s nuclear deal.
Obama’s politicizing it – a scheme in which Goldberg has been knowingly or unknowingly complicit – has been successful in distracting the conversation from the dangers of the deal. But an unintended effect of these attacks has been to highlight the bipartisan nature of support for Israel and opposition to the administration’s negotiating tactics.
As the speech draws nearer and Obama’s defenders attack Netanyahu more, signs of the bipartisan support for Israel keep growing. Last week Netanyahu agreed to meet with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Harry Reid after his speech. On Friday a bipartisan group of senators including Bob Corker (R- Tenn.), Robert Menendez (D- N.J.), Lindsey Graham (R- S.C.) and Tim Kaine (D- Va.) introduced legislation to force the administration to submit any nuclear with Iran to Congress for review. Obama has threatened to veto the bill. (Kaine has reportedly said that he will not be attending Netanyahu’s speech.)
For all the reporting about the growing distance between Israel and the administration and of Democratic criticisms of Netanyahu, the planned meeting and the introduction of the bill underline the bipartisan suspicion of the administration’s approach to Iran.DONATE
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