Ron Radosh

The Obama Administration Prepares for Netanyahu's Historic Speech to Congress

As Benjamin Netanyahu prepares for his speech on Monday night to AIPAC, and his historic speech to both houses of Congress on Tuesday, the Obama administration and its acolytes have increased their attacks on the prime minister for supposedly tearing apart the long-standing special relationship between the United States and Israel.

The truth is that it is the Obama administration, and not Benjamin Netanyahu, that has been working around the clock to weaken America’s support for Israel–all for the purpose of putting into effect a very bad nuclear deal with Iran. Obama is doing this by trying to change the issue from the nature of the forthcoming Iran deal to whether or not Netanyahu should have accepted John Boehner’s offer to speak before Congress. Obama’s goal has been explained best by Matthew Continetti:

America is about to give away a lot. This week the AP reported on what an agreement with Iran might look like: sanctions relief in exchange for promises to slow down Iranian centrifuges for 10 years. At which point the Iranians could manufacture a bomb—assuming they hadn’t produced one in secret. Iran would get international legitimacy, assurance that military intervention was not an option, and no limitations on its ICBM programs, its support for international terrorism, its enrichment of plutonium, its widespread human rights violations, and its campaign to subvert or co-opt Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, and Syria. Then it can announce itself as the first Shiite nuclear power.

Even if one argues that Netanyahu should have turned down Boehner’s offer and did his part to  inflame the U.S.-Israel alliance, as does The Times of Israel editor David Horovitz, the focus should be on Obama and Kerry’s forthcoming deal with Iran, which will amount to appeasement. And on that issue, it is Netanyahu, not Obama and Kerry, who is correct. Horovitz writes:

The US-led international community has failed Israel, and failed itself, in its handling of Iran’s drive to nuclear weapons. It is on the point of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. And Netanyahu has been trying desperately to warn against this misguided course of action… .Netanyahu has incessantly stressed that a good deal — a deal, that is, that denies Iran the capacity to break out to the bomb — is infinitely preferable to the resort to military action. He has campaigned relentlessly for a deal that dismantles Iran military nuclear infrastructure, highlighting that energy-rich Iran has no need whatsoever for its claimed “peaceful” nuclear program, that it has repeatedly misled the world about the program, and that it can be guaranteed to continue lying and manipulating and deceiving all the way to the bomb if it is left with the opportunity to do so.

Obama has spared almost no effort to undermine Netanyahu.  He has allowed a former aide to work in Israel as a campaign strategist for Netanyahu’s main opponent, Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog. He has had Susan Rice appear on the talk shows, where she accused Netanyahu of endangering the U.S.-Israeli alliance, and has allowed John Kerry to publicly insult and condemn the Israeli prime minister. In addition, an unnamed member of the White House staff told the press that Netanyahu was “chickenshit,” a man who sought war with Iran instead of working with Washington on behalf of an agreement with Iran.

The sharpest attack on Obama himself was that made a short time ago by the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez. Menendez’s call for sanctions if there is no deal with Iran is particularly odious to the president. Menendez’s position undermines the argument of the White House that only Republicans oppose the administration’s policies.

At a Senate Democratic Issues Conference meeting in mid-January, Obama argued with senators who were at the closed-door meeting to withdraw their support of sanctions as a way to pressure Iran. The New York Times reported:

The president said he understood the pressures that senators face from donors and others, but he urged the lawmakers to take the long view rather than make a move for short-term political gain, according to the senator. Mr. Menendez, who was seated at a table in front of the podium, stood up and said he took “personal offense.”

Menendez responded that he had worked for over 20 years “to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions,” and that if the talks collapsed, sanctions could not be imposed quickly. As for those “donors” whom Obama blamed, everyone knew what the president was implying — that Jewish donors from the Israel lobby were responsible for the senators’ decision to not stand with the administration.

This past Friday, Sen. Menendez and Sen. Bob Corker introduced a bi-partisan bill that would have Congress review any nuclear deal that the Obama administration strikes with Iran. The bill would institute a 60-day waiting period, during which time Congress would review the deal’s terms. It does not mandate that Congress then vote on it, although it could. Nevertheless, Kerry is urging that it not be supported, and Obama has made it clear that he would veto it should the bill pass the Senate and House.

The administration and its supporters in the press are not only blaming Netanyahu for driving a wedge in the U.S.-Israeli relationship, but they would have us believe that his speech is going to destroy bi-partisan support for Israel and tear apart the Jewish community.  But who exactly are they talking about? Many of the Democrats who have announced they are going to boycott the speech were never supporters of Israel. That list includes 23 congressmen who have previously taken money from groups opposed to Israel such as CAIR, and who in 2010 signed a letter penned by Rep. Keith Ellison opposing Israel’s blockade of Gaza, a stance that in effect was support of Hamas’ own demands.

Other supporters of Obama in the American Jewish community include J Street, which has gone all out in opposition to Netanyahu. Their actions include a full-page ad in the New York Times attacking Netanyahu, instructing Netanyahu that “Congress is not a prop in your election campaign.” Nowhere does J Street acknowledge, as David Horovitz has, that Netanyahu is right about Iran and the goals of the mullahs.

That is not surprising. J Street has lobbied against sanctions on Iran and, although purporting to be “pro-Israel and pro-peace,” always acts as a front group for Obama’s anti-Israel policies. Even Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman pointed out on February 11th that “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. It exacerbates an already heated and politicized moment for U.S. Israel relations at a critical juncture in the West’s negotiations with Iran.” Foxman, it should be noted, had previously criticized Netanyahu’s decision to accept the Boehner invitation.

The truth is clear for anyone who pauses to examine the trajectory of the past few weeks. It is Barack Obama, and not Benjamin Netanyahu, that has done everything possible to put a monkey-wrench into the U.S.-Israeli alliance. As Jonathan Tobin writes in Commentary, “ AIPAC activists who will be descending on Washington … aren’t in any doubt about who’s the one who is working to undermine the alliance and the bipartisan pro-Israel consensus: President Obama.” It is the president who has inserted partisanship into the alliance with Israel throughout his time in office and, as Tobin points out, reneged on his campaign pledge to put an end to Iran’s nuclear program, “and instead embarked on a path of appeasement whose goal is a misguided effort to make the Islamist regime a partner on a whole range of political and economic issues.”

And make no mistake. The charge of appeasement may have been used too many times,  but this is not one of them. There is a very strong case that Obama’s actions and policies meet the criterion for a comparison. The argument that the analogy is appropriate  has been put forth by Victor Davis Hanson in National Review and by Michael Makovsky in the Weekly Standard. By giving in to Iran and abandoning our most important ally–Israel–Obama is choosing to make the United States the kind of power that bends U.S. policy to its enemy Iran, and which alienates its most reliable ally in the Middle East, Israel.

Democrats who understand the stakes at hand should do their part to make support of Israel a bi-partisan policy, and both attend and listen carefully to the arguments Benjamin Netanyahu will make in his speech to Congress.