Sunday, March 01, 2015

Netanyahu's address to the Joint Session of Congress: Short Term Convenience vs Long Term Security

By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger

On June 7, 1981, Prime Minister Begin ordered the destruction of Iraq's nuclear reactor, shortly before it became operational and on the eve of the June 30 Israeli election.  In the short run, Begin was condemned and punished globally, accused of politicking and undermining US-Israel relations.  However, in the long run Begin's defiance dramatically enhanced Israel's power projection, upgraded US-Israel strategic cooperation and spared the US a nuclear confrontation in 1991.   
In 2015, Prime Minister Netanyahu is urged to cancel his address at the March 3 Joint Session of Congress - on the eve of the March 31 deadline for an agreement with Iran and the March 17 Israeli election - lest it undermine US-Israel relations and fuels the rift between him and President Obama. Netanyahu is told that the President – and not Congress – possesses the authority to conclude/reject an agreement with Iran.
HoweverFebruary 16, 2015 CNN poll  documents a rift between Obama and the American peopleover foreign policy in general and the attitude toward Netanyahu in particular: 51%:41% disapprove of Obama's foreign policy; 43%:25% think that it is appropriate for Netanyahu to address the Joint Session of Congress before the March 31 deadline for an agreement with Iran; and 47%:32% oppose Obama's handling of the Netanyahu's address.  At the same time, the annual February, 2015 Gallup poll, reaffirms vast public support of Israel (70%), in sharp contrast to the lack of support for the Palestinian Authority (17% - similar to Iran, Syria and North Korea).
Moreover, the Iran-driven rift between Obama and Netanyahu is unbridgeableas is the rift between Obama and the pro-US Arab regimes of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Oman, Qatar, Jordan and Egypt.  The latter are deemed by Teheran's Ayatollahs as apostates doomed to oblivion; hence, the Iran-supported subversion and terrorism, which has systematically afflicted them.  They are panicky about the prospect of a nuclear, apocalyptic, megalomaniacal Iran, which is already surging into Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, fueling global Islamic terrorism, triggering a potential avalanche, which would replace pro-US Arab regimes with radical, pro-Iran, anti-US elements.
They oppose Obama's policy of containing a nuclear Iran, and his eagerness to achieve an agreement, which would transform Iran into a nuclear threshold state, celebrating annually the "Death to America Day."  They are convinced that Iran's nuclear infrastructure must be the dismantled.  They are aware of Iran's rogue, anti-US, terroristic, subversive, anti-human rights and non-compliant track record, and therefore do not consider the Ayatollahs credible partners to an agreement. They insist that "at this stage, we prefer a collapse of the diplomatic process to a bad deal."
Notwithstanding Obama's assurancesthey are alarmed by President Obama's and Secretary Kerry's worldview and track record:  "the world is less violenthealthier and more tolerant than it has ever been;" subordinating unilateral US military actions to multilateral initiatives; considering the UN a key playmaker of international relations; bringing rogue regimes to the table, not to submission; refusing to acknowledge Islamic/Jihadist terrorism; claiming that economic and social grievances are the root cause of "violent extremism" (are ISIL, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Palestinian terrorists and Boko Haram looking for jobs?); abandoning Iran's domestic opposition in 2009; betraying pro-US Mubarak; embracing the Muslim Brotherhood, the most organized Islamic terror organization; considering Hafiz and Bashar Assad (until 2011) as constructive leaders; welcoming the Arab Tsunami as an Arab Spring transitioning to democracy; the failed retreat from Iraq which bolstered Islamic terrorism and Iran's imperialism; the failed military involvement in Libya, which has been transformed into a terrorist haven; declaring victory over Al Qaeda and claiming that the war in Iraq was over; failing to fend off the Iranian surge in Yemen, which threatens Saudi Arabia and Oman as well as the free passage of oil tankers in the most critical straits of Bab al Mandeb and Hormuz; etc.
The November, 2014 midterm election paved the road to a dramatic rift between Obama and Congress, the world's most powerful legislature, which is a co-equal, co-determining branch of the US government in domestic, foreign and national security areas.
The US Constitution provides Congress with the power to shape foreign policy and to constrain presidential actions.  For example, Congress stopped the US military involvement in Vietnam, Angola and Nicaragua; prevented the supply of AWACs to Iran in 1977; brought down the white regime in South Africa; is still refusing to ratify the 1999 comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; overhauled the US intelligence agencies; coerced Moscow to allow free emigration; forced President Obama to veto a February, 2011 UN Security Council condemnation of Israel; forced Obama on August 1, during the 2015 war in Gaza, to sign a $225mn appropriation for the acquisition of Iron Dome batteries; etc.
Netanyahu's address to the Joint Session of Congress – which has the muscle to forge the policy on Iran - is driven by clear, present and lethal threats to the US, its Arab allies, Israel and Western democracies, not by political bickering.  Its timing is determined by the March 31 deadline for an agreement with Iran, not by the March 17 Israeli election.  Just like Prime Minister Begin, Netanyahu's defiance of short-term political convenience will spare the US, Israel and the Free World long-term disasters.

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