Will Israel always manage to reign supreme over the US?
The romantic flame between Washington and Tehran, which had reignited last year in the form of the historic phone call between US President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, has been dampened.
The tentative deal between the US and Iran, limiting Iran’s nuclear program for around a decade before easing up on restrictions has raised strong opposition from Israel.
On invitation of a Republican congressman, which was condemned by the White House, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made his way to Washington. The stage was set, the world was watching, and Netanyahu was going to put up a good show for the hottest ticket in town.
Netanyahu, who is standing for re-elections on March 17th, is busy portraying himself as the man who defied Obama at home, while claiming that he meant no disrespect to the president of their beloved ally, the United States of America.
But before we get into the love triangle between Obama, Rouhani and Netanyahu, let us look at some of the points the Israeli premier made.
Netanyahu explained how Iran is backing up militancy in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, giving way to a paradigm where Iran is hell-bent on widening its sphere of influence. He continued on to compare Iran to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), showing how the Islamic Republic is far more dangerous to global peace due to the ‘marriage’ between militant Islam and nuclear weapons.
He also mentioned how Iran has been kept at bay due to the sanctions and removing these sanctions would perhaps lead to a new aggressive Iran, which will produce nuclear arms and ‘sponsor’ further terrorism in the region, armed with a newly bolstered economy.
But Mr Netanyahu’s most important line in the entire speech consisted of the following five words:
“This is a bad deal.”
I am not here to argue with the points made in the speech. A country which has spent most of its life legalising genocide against the Palestinians has never listened and they will not start now.
What I am here to do is to explore the intricate dynamic relationship shared between the three parties. The aforementioned ‘love triangle’ is where the interesting story begins.
What Netanyahu has done by unconventionally accepting Congressman Boehner’s invitation to speak in the US Congress is show his two faces. While standing on American soils, he touts Israel as a champion of peace, and how the two countries are strong allies. Back home, he claims his defiance of the White House as a matter of patriotism. It is the golden ticket to re-election – much like the killing of Osama Bin Laden was for Obama.
It is a win-win-lose situation.
The Republican congressman wins, having challenged the ruling party.
Netanyahu wins, by getting re-elected and protecting the Israelis from any possible Iranian threat.
Obama does not win, having lost public confidence and a fragmented congress.
In the public eye, the commotion caused over a deal Obama’s government proposed, facing such fierce opposition at home and abroad certainly hurts the credibility of the president that Americans voted into office twice.
The nuclear deal stands on a strong foundation of quid pro quid; the US decreases sanctions, in return for a restriction of Iranian nuclear program. Netanyahu has not suggested a ‘viable alternative’ as pointed out by Obama, but instead linked the sanctions to things not even remotely linked to the nuclear program such as Iran’s expansionist policy, its support for Hezbollah and the threats to Israel.
This speech will sour the relations between Israel and the US till the end of Obama’s term. However, assuming republicans win the next elections, Netanyahu has managed to get his country’s foot in the door.
The main reason this speech is important is that it showed the world that Netanyahu’s concern for Tehran’s growing regional influence overwhelms the concern for the Iranian nuclear program. This does not reflect well for Israel, given that the speech was used as a ploy for electoral purposes, and how Netanyahu is bent on sticking to the Americans while making sure that his people are not threatened by the non-Israeli Arabs which surround him.
Israel needs to realise that its reigning supreme act over the United States may soon be going through a very rocky patch. Obama may have played it cool, simply asking for a better alternative, but the air of indifference may soon disappear to reveal a not-so-friendly USA.