Israel continues fight against Iran deal
It is now clear that the Iranian nuclear deal will pass Congress. President Obama now has the 34 votes to override any Congressional objections, and is well on the way to being able to prevent any vote at all, if he can achieve the 41 votes needed for a filibuster.
It would be logical that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would now give up his fight against the Iran deal. But at a toast at Israel’s Foreign Ministry for the upcoming Jewish New Year, Netanyahu said he intends to keep fighting against the Iran agreement.
“Even in the face of disputes, Israel must be mindful of its traditional allies, chiefly the United States,” Netanyahu said. “And although the majority of Americans see eye to eye with us in terms of the threat Iran poses, it is important that the American public understand the fact that Iran is an enemy of the United States and openly declares it.”
“Israel and the United States are allies and this understanding has important implications for our continued security cooperation,” Netanyahu added.
Polls show that most Israelis oppose the Iranian nuclear deal, which would lift most sanctions on Iran in exchange for curtailing its nuclear program. President Obama says it will keep Iran away from a bomb for at least 15 years. But many in Israel are skeptical, saying that Iran has lied to the international community in the past and is likely to do so again.
Netanyahu’s campaign has deepened tensions between the US and Israel to one of the highest levels in recent history. An official from the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC is quoted in Israeli media as saying that Netanyahu’s speech in Congress last March was a bad decision.
“As soon as he insisted on going ahead with this move, which was perceived as a Republican maneuver against the president, we lost a significant part of the Democratic party, without which it was impossible to block the agreement,” the official, who asked not to be named told the Walla News Agency.
Former Israeli Knesset member Dov Lipman (an American-born rabbi) of the Yesh Atid party, which was part of the government coalition in the last government but is currently in opposition, said Netanyahu has made serious mistakes.
“That speech in Congress made no sense in what was best for Israel,” Lipman told The Media Line. “We had Democratic congressmen begging us and saying, “don’t make this a partisan issue.” The moment he got up and put the Democrats in that position, we lost it.”
Lipman said Netanyahu should admit defeat and try to move on.
“We embarrassed the president and the secretary of state and ruined all of these relationships with Jewish organizations,” Lipman said. “It is a colossal failure and the deal is happening anyway.”
Some Israeli analysts say that Netanyahu will not give up for several reasons.
“Israeli politics are focused on security issues, not economic ones,” Reuven Chazan, a professor of political science at Hebrew University. “Netanyahu’s focus on Iran helped him win the Israeli election, and even if it’s a dead horse he’s going to beat it for political purposes.”
But beyond that, he said that Netanyahu deeply believes that the Iran deal is a colossal mistake that lead to a nuclear Iran, rather than preventing that scenario. He says he has heard this from several in Netanyahu’s inner circle.
“This is an almost Messianic quest in Netanyahu’s mind,” he said. “He perceives that he was put on this earth to save Israel from the Iranian threat.”