By Ted Belman
The fracas surrounding Netanyahu’s upcoming speech before Congress is all about whose views on Iran, Obama’s or Netanyahu’s, will win the day. Thus the stakes are very high both for Obama’s foreign policy initiatives and for Israel’s existence.
But reports began surfacing last week that the Obama administration is offering Iran technical concessions on its nuclear infrastructure in exchange for Iran’s use of its leverage to tamper regional turmoil.
But the warning from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif underscored core motivations driving Western diplomats in the talks: The realignment of Tehran towards cooperation with Washington elsewhere in the region, from Syria and Iraq to Yemen and Lebanon.
That is a departure from their original goal, set explicitly at the beginning of negotiations, to dismember Iran’s nuclear program thoroughly and permanently.
Obama is doing his best to win the contest. He is rallying support from EU leaders, from Jewish Democrats, ADL and AIPAC, Herzog and Livni, the Israeli left generally and much of the mainstream media. Even Commentary Magazine has twice argued that Netanyahu’s proposed speech is a mistake.
Lobby starts ‘Bibi Doesn’t Speak for Me’ petition to keep Netanyahu from Congress – but at whose expense?
Obama and Merkel held a news conference at the Munich Conference on Feb 9/15.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. [ …] Sir, some have suggested that you are outraged by the Israeli Prime Minister’s decision to address Congress. Is that so? And how would you advise Democrats who are considering a boycott?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: With respect to Prime Minister Netanyahu, as I’ve said before, I talk to him all the time, our teams constantly coordinate. We have a practice of not meeting with leaders right before their elections, two weeks before their elections. As much as I love Angela, if she was two weeks away from an election she probably would not have received an invitation to the White House — (laughter) — and I suspect she wouldn’t have asked for one. (Laughter.) And I think it’s important for us to maintain these protocols — because the U.S.-Israeli relationship is not about a particular party. This isn’t a relationship founded on affinity between the Labor Party and the Democratic Party, or Likud and the Republican Party. This is the U.S.-Israeli relationship that extends beyond parties, and has to do with that unbreakable bond that we feel and our commitment to Israel’s security, and the shared values that we have. And the way to preserve that is to make sure that it doesn’t get clouded with what could be perceived as partisan politics. Whether that’s accurate or not, that is a potential perception, and that’s something that we have to guard against. Now, I don’t want to be coy. The Prime Minister and I have a very real difference around Iran, Iran sanctions. I have been very clear … that it does not make sense to sour the negotiations a month or two before they’re about to be completed. …. If, in fact, we can get a deal, then we should embrace that. If we can’t get a deal, then we’ll have to make a set of decisions, and, as I’ve said to Congress, I’ll be the first one to work with them to apply even stronger measures against Iran. As the President of the United States, I’m looking at what the options are if we don’t get a diplomatic resolution. And those options are narrow and … not attractive. And from the perspective of U.S. interests — and I believe from the perspective of Israel’s interests, although I can’t speak for, obviously, the Israeli government — it is far better if we can get a diplomatic solution. So there are real differences substantively, but that’s separate and apart from the whole issue of Mr. Netanyahu coming to Washington.
Late today, the Iran Task Force organized by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and The Council of Foreign Relations, reported technical findings that raised basic questions about whether the pending P5+1 final agreement would deter nuclear breakout. It cited former IAEA Deputy Director Dr. Olli Heinonen:
That with 9,500 centrifuges and a stock of nuclear material, Iran would have a breakout time of “no more than six months.” This is far less than the one-year breakout time that the administration has stated it is seeking. In effect, it would represent recognition of Iran as a nuclear threshold state—a status FDD believes would be dangerous to U.S. national security.
Like I said, this fracas has nothing to do with elections either in Israel or the US and it has nothing to do with following protocol. Its all about Netanyahu’s challenge to Obama’s policies.