Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a brilliant speech before Congress, arguing that the agreement President Obama is so desperate to strike with Iran is a “very bad deal.”
He also made the Democrats who boycotted the talk look supremely foolish. This was no partisan pitch – this was a heartfelt appeal against allowing Iran -- a country that has vowed to annihilate Israel -- to access nuclear weapons. The outrage is not that Mr. Netanyahu addressed Congress; the outrage is that President Obama is pushing for a deal that so alarms our allies, and that he went to such great lengths to prevent Americans from hearing the truth.
President Obama had turned Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before Congress into a sophomoric beauty contest, complete with plaintive whines about “fairness.” With his thin-skinned resistance to the Israeli leader’s appearance, Obama created an international ruckus, which only served to publicize Netanyahu’s address. Not agreeing to meet with the Prime Minister, sending various proxies out of the country on bogus missions (Biden’s exile to Uruguay postponed by the flu?), bad-mouthing the Israeli leader and his GOP hosts; the White House even “sternly” warned Netanyahu not to divulge details of the proposed nuclear deal. Whatever Mr. Obama’s intentions, the outcome surely could not have been what he had hoped.
Mr. Netanyahu’s approval rating among Americans has soared – up ten points since 2012, and hitting all-time highs. While Republicans tend to have the most favorable opinion of the Israeli leader, the gains in popularity were registered across all political parties.
Embarrassingly, Netanyahu’s favorability ratings are better than Obama’s. Both have 45 percent of the public expressing positive support for them, but Netanyahu is looked upon unfavorably by only 24 percent of the public, compared to 50% from Obama.
How could that be? Maybe Americans are tired of Obama talking down to them, treating them like tiresome children who cannot be trusted to make important decisions. Trying to hide the shortcomings of the Iran deal recalls the arrogance of Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber, the MIT economist who said passing President Obama’s health law depended on “the stupidity of the American voter.” Does concluding a deal with Iran require an ignorant America?
Netanyahu raised two serious objections to the emerging agreement with Iran: first that the deal would leave in place Iran’s significant nuclear infrastructure, allowing a short break-out time for the construction of a nuclear bomb, and second, that all restrictions on Tehran’s nuclear activities will be lifted after ten years. Though there was no new information revealed by Mr. Netanyahu, it is likely that most Americans were not aware of these provisions. In effect, the Israeli leader countered the positive spin put on the negotiations by President Obama and John Kerry.
Though many specifics of the negotiations are still unknown, Netanyahu’s concerns appear valid. Iran will apparently continue to enrich uranium, with thousands of centrifuges spinning and with the Arak heavy-water reactor also producing plutonium. According to one analyst, at the end of 2013 the country had enough fuel to produce 7 bombs.
Perhaps most worrisome is that according to experts at the non-partisan Foreign Policy Initiative, “With 6,500 centrifuges, Iran would retain a less than six month “breakout” period, or the time required to enrich the requisite amount of uranium for a nuclear bomb — an insufficient interval to enable rapid detection and response by the international community.” That’s in contrast to President Obama’s assertion in a recent Reuters interview that the deal on the table would “make sure there’s at least a year between us seeing them try to get a nuclear weapon and them actually being able to obtain one.”
That Obama and Kerry have desperately resisted revealing even the broad strokes of the potential deal with Iran is worrisome. The New York Times recently observed that Kerry’s personal involvement in the negotiations has been regarded in some quarters as unseemly and smacking of desperation, after failures to score diplomatic wins in Russia, Syria or between Israel and Palestine. The Times notes, “Kerry’s eagerness is an open invitation for the Iranians to press for concessions…” President Obama also struck out diplomatically and is equally anxious to check this box.
That’s not good enough. As Netanyahu pointed out, the prospect that Iran will eventually become a nuclear power has also alarmed Arab nations like Saudi Arabia. It is quite likely that any deal that softens the restrictions on Iran will likely spark an arms race in the Middle East. We have seen the rampaging barbarity of terrorist groups like ISIS; what would they do if they were able to access a nuclear weapon? It does not bear imagining.
Netanyahu also informed Americans that the Iranians have consistently played “hide and cheat” with international inspectors. The IAEA noted in a recent report, “The Islamic Republic has yet to address two outstanding issues relating to alleged explosives tests and other measures that might have been used for nuclear bomb research which it should have explained away by last August.”
These two questions were part of a series that concern suspicious activities that suggest that Iran’s research has not been directed solely towards peaceful ends. Why hasn’t Iran provided the requested information? It now looks as though Mr. Obama would like to conclude a deal before the U.N. investigation is finalized. Why the rush?
Mr. Netanyahu came to the U.S. to sound an alarm about the dangerous deal Obama wants to conclude with a terrorist nation. Was his address politically motivated? Perhaps. Parliamentary elections take place March 17, and the Prime Minister’s party is in a close race with the rival Labor party. Israelis trust the Prime Minister on security; his pushback on an Iran deal wins him points.
Sadly, the person Israelis do not trust with their security is President Obama. A recent CNN poll revealed that some 72 percent of Israelis do not think that Mr. Obama will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Americans should wonder: what do they know that we don’t know?
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