By Derek Brody
On July 14th, President Obama, along with a number of other countries, reached a historic settlement regarding Iran’s nuclear capabilities. This complex and intricate agreement has been met with considerable backlash in the United States, especially from the Republican members of Congress. It was able to pass on September 10th, without the need for President Obama to use his veto power on any limitations put forth by Congressional opponents of the deal.
One staunch opponent of the deal, however, is neither American nor a member of the Republican Party: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu has labeled this deal a “historic mistake.” The Prime Minister went on to say that the deal will grant Iran, and the terrorist regime in Teheran that runs it, hundreds of billions of dollars to “fuel Iran’s terrorism worldwide,” its aggression in the region, and increase “Iran’s efforts to destroy Israel, which are ongoing.”
It is a somewhat understandable viewpoint, since few countries face the constant, complex security threats that Israel faces. Almost from the date of its inception, Israel has been under siege from enemies in the countries immediately surrounding it, and this fear caused by uninterrupted danger is inherent in Netanyahu’s remarks. Many Middle Eastern countries also have systematic and institutionalized opposition to Israel’s very existence Moreover, Israel faces an uphill climb in the United Nations, where states with far more perverse human rights violations continue to challenge Israel’s human rights records.. With these points in mind, it is still pertinent to assess Netanyahu’s condemnation of the deal as not only reckless, but also uninformed.
While Netanyahu’s address to Congress did no more than to label it “a bad deal, a very bad deal” and to say that the only way to rectify the situation is with a “better deal.” Instead of providing any concrete examples, the Israeli Prime Minister has railed against this peace accord aimlessly, challenging the United States, Israel’s biggest and strongest ally, to do better. President Obama was right in his response to Netanyahu’s speech, pointing out there was “nothing new” said by the Prime Minister. Netanyahu spoke out of anger and fear, rather than rational thought, demanding a solution without offering any concrete help. His comments reflect that, as he did little to actually rectify the situation, choosing instead to recklessly criticize President Obama’s actions in his meeting with the joint session of Congress without any possible ways to resolve the conflict.
Despite Netanyahu’s stance, the Iran deal in its entirety is neither good or bad for Israel. The deal is a substantial diplomatic achievement in its own right, potentially limiting the nuclear power of an unstable state for the next 15 years; the mere fact that this was solved by diplomacy, rather than by force, is an accomplishment in and of itself. There are also negatives to this agreement: the possibility that Iran will renege on the accord, the problems that may arise with inspections of facilities, and the difficulties that may come with reinstating sanctions. But Israel, and Mr. Netanyahu specifically, must put trust in the United States to be able to combat an Iranian breach of contract swiftly and effectively. If not, they risk losing their most powerful ally, leaving them in imminent danger in the Middle East.
Instead, the Israeli Prime Minister is jumping on domestic fear in order to castigate the Obama administration, an administration that has had a complex, yet overall positive, relationship with the state of Israel. This illustrates the larger issue in these negotiations: the frosty and unhealthy relationship between these two world leaders. Both have legitimate gripes, to be sure. Mr. Netanyahu has said that President Obama has not acted with Israel’s best interests in mind with many of the United States’ actions in the Middle East, especially when the President went to Cairo in June 2009 and spoke out in support of a “Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.” The American President has countered with the fact that the United States has provided extensive military aid to Israel, as well as blocking Palestinian efforts to be recognized by the United Nations. Ultimately, however, it is Bibi, as the President likes to call him, who has truly ignited the flame of this incendiary relationship. On numerous occasions, Netanyahu has spoken out against the President’s actions, preferring to loudly voice his concerns rather than find the common ground.
When Mr. Obama refused to follow through on his threat of airstrikes on Syria after the use of chemical weapons, Mr. Netanyahu responded with outrage, fearing for Israel’s safety and security. Susan E. Rice, the President’s National Security Advisor, reported that Mr. Netanyahu did everything but “use the n-word” to describe Mr. Obama. What Mr. Netanyahu failed to realize, however, was that the President was striking a deal to remove those weapons entirely, as well as a deal to remove Iran’s ability to create a nuclear weapon. Instead of providing concrete assistance toward peace in the Middle East, the Israeli Prime Minister has instead acted out of anger and frustration, choosing to personally attack the President, rather than providing real and helpful assistance.
Despite major differences of opinion between these two men and their respective countries, it would be in the best interest of both parties to find common ground, to rekindle the strong relationship that the United States and Israel have had in the past. If they do so, America can continue to act with Israel’s interests when negotiating for peace with other countries in the Middle East. This will only be possible if Mr. Netanyahu begins to think before he speaks, rather than hastily criticizing the actions of John Kerry and the Obama administration.