from Middle East Matters and Middle East Program

Netanyahu hands bat to Obama critics

March 3, 2015

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This article was originally published here on CNN.com on Tuesday, March 3, 2015.

Despite the hype, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu still managed to deliver a speech that was both magisterial and audacious. Pulling few punches, Netanyahu went to Washington’s epicenter and told assembled lawmakers that the United States’ president, Barak Obama, is negotiating a terrible deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The speech is likely to have an impact in three important ways:

First, Netanyahu just made the deal that the Obama administration is trying to conclude all the more difficult. The Israeli leader pointed to some of the emerging deal’s core problems: first, leaving much of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure in place, and second, sunset provisions that would remove remaining restrictions after a decade.

In doing so, Netanyahu gave the Obama administration’s biggest domestic critics a huge bat with which to club the president and his team. More fundamentally, the Israeli leader was effective in portraying the Islamic Republic not as a potential partner, but as the source of the region’s greatest ills.

Second, the sheer audaciousness of Netanyahu delivering a speech in the capital while Secretary of State John Kerry is negotiating with Iranian envoys in Switzerland is likely to render impossible any future modus vivendi between President Obama and the Israeli prime minister.

For the past six years, Obama and Netanyahu have been locked into an unending cycle of clashes followed by temporary truces. Tuesday, Netanyahu seemingly confirmed the White House’s deepest suspicions that the Israeli leader has long been working to manipulate partisan American politics against the president.

Continue reading on CNN.com

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