The dynamics of the Netanyahu visit is much more complicated than the U.S. and Israeli media try and make it out to be. It is more than one more breach in the Obama/Netanyahu relationship; it’s a reaction to the President’s attempt to go around the constitutionally mandated rules for Senate approval of treaties, Obama’s use of British Prime Minister David Cameron to lobby for Congress to submit to the President, and a fear that the President will agree to a deal that will naively give Iran a treaty that will put the United States and Israel in grave danger.
After the Netanyahu visit to a joint session of Congress was announced, Israeli Daily Newspaper Ha'aretz quoted a senior US official as saying, “There are things you simply don’t do. He spat in our face publicly and that’s no way to behave. Netanyahu ought to remember that President Obama has a year and a half left to his presidency, and that there will be a price.”
Just the week before the announcement of the Netanyahu’s visit Obama called Bibi and delivered a "warning not to meddle in the battle he is waging against Congress over the sanctions legislation." This call was made just days after a joint press conference with the British Prime Minister and the American President where David Cameron admitted he was lobbying Congress to drop any bid for new sanctions on Iran.
On Sunday’s “Meet The Press” White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough tried to distance the President from that anonymous statement, "I can guarantee that it's not me, not the president, and not what we believe.” He added, “I'm not going to get hyperbolic or emotional about this. Our relationship with Israel is many faceted, deep and abiding. It's focused on a shared series of threats, but also, on a shared series of values that one particular instance is not going to inform overwhelmingly."
Despite McDonough’s protestations, Obama is seething, and that is the real reason the Administration made a point to say the President would not be meeting with Netanyahu without Bibi even broaching the topic. And if you look at it from the president’s perspective the anger is justified. After all the Israeli Prime Minister kept the possible visit secret for weeks while he negotiated the details with the speaker.
But from the perspective of the Israeli Prime Minister there is no wiggle room, the Iranian nuclear program must be stopped at all costs. Netanyahu is not a worry-about-Iran-come lately. Whether you agree with him or not, Bibi has made the Iranian nuclear program a priority issue became Likud party leader the first time, in 1992.
Neither Netanyahu nor either party in congress trusts this administration to negotiate a treaty with Iran. Indeed much of the push back against this administration on Iran comes from the Democratic Senator from New Jersey Bob Menendez. As for New York’s Senior Senator Chuck Schumer, he is to close to the top of Democratic leadership to ever disagree with this President.
It was Senator Menendez who at last week’s Foreign Relations Committee hearing cornered Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken into admitting the White House is no longer negotiating stop Iran from breaking out to nuclear weapons, they are only trying get a better "alarm" in case the rogue nation tries to make the leap.
In the end why should it matter? The constitution requires the Senate approve each treaty with a two-thirds vote. However if the agreement does not bind a future presidency it isn't considered a treaty and thus does not need Senate approval. And according to the Administration that is exactly what they are trying to accomplish.
The Administration is fighting two different Congressional bills. One will require the administration to seek Senate approval for any agreement with Iran closing the loophole the Administration is trying to use. As Menendez described it to Anthony Blinkin, “The Iranians have made it very clear that their parliament has to vote on this issue. Why is it possible that Tehran will treat its parliament better than the administration in the greatest democracy is willing to its congress?”
The very fact Obama does not want Senate input into this treaty alone is cause for concern that he will make a bad agreement.
The second bill is the one generating the most buzz. This bill would increase sanctions on Iran in July 2015 if a framework agreement were not made by the March 2015 deadline, additionally Obama (or any President) has the right to waive or delay the sanctions. According to the President the possibility of new sanctions will scuttle the discussion, even if it’s scheduled for four months after the agreed to deadline.
Menendez and others in Congress are fearful that if a deal is not made by the March deadline, the time for Iran to breakout into nuclear weapons time is shorter than the time it will take to create new sanctions, thus the reason to have sanctions in place.
And what is Iran doing during this debate? Increasing their nuclear capacity. Iran is building two new nuclear plants “for peaceful purposes.” They always say they are building new nuclear infrastructure for peaceful means, but in actuality they use it as a pretext for expanding their nuclear stockpile. Indeed, The Xinhuanet News Agency (China) reported “Iran’s atomic chief said on Sunday that Iran must increase its uranium enrichment capacity to 30 tons per year to meet the fuel needs of its Bushehr nuclear power plant, according to Tasnim news agency
So in the end, Netanyahu’s trip to Congress is a necessary risk. Start off with the fact that this President does not like Netanyahu and his administration has enacted anti-Israel policies since he took office. Now add to that the fact that based on the information we know now the Obama administration cannot be trusted to make a deal which protects the United States or Israel from a nuclear Iran. Why else would he try to skirt congressional approval? Iran is increasing its nuclear capacity without objection from the United States and the only way to prevent this possible disaster is to convince Congress and the American people to put their foot down. Under those conditions Benjamin Netanyahu had no other choice.
In a speech at an Israeli Bonds Dinner in Florida Sunday, Israeli Ambassador To the US Ron Dermer laid out the reasons Netanyahu was going to congress:
The Prime Minister’s visit here is not intended to show any disrespect for President Obama. Israel deeply appreciates the strong support we have received from President Obama in many areas – the enhanced security cooperation, heightened intelligence sharing, generous military assistance and iron dome funding, and opposition to anti-Israel initiatives at the United Nations.
The Prime Minister’s visit is also not intended to wade into your political debate. Israel deeply appreciates the strong bipartisan support we enjoy in the American Congress -- where Democrats and Republicans come together to support Israel -- Just as Israel appreciates the wide and deep support that itenjoys among the American people.
Rather, the Prime Minister’s visit to Washington is intended for one purpose -- and one purpose only. To speak up while there is still time to speak up. To speak up when there is still time to make a difference.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Iran is the world’s most dangerous regime. It has already devoured four Arab capitals – Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Saana in Yemen – and it is hungry for more.
Iran is the greatest sponsor of terrorism in the world, perpetrating or ordering attacks in 25 countries on five continents in the last four years alone.
Iran is responsible for the murder of thousands of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and hundreds of Marines in Lebanon. It is responsible for the bombings of US Embassies in Africa and for the twin bombings two decades ago in Argentina.
This reign of terror and violence has all happened without Iran having a nuclear weapon. Now just imagine how much more dangerous Iran will be with nuclear weapons.
And do not think that America is beyond Iran’s reach.
Today, Iran is building ICBMs - Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. Now only in cartoons do ICBMS carry TNT. In the real world, they carry nuclear payloads.
And those ICBMS that Iran is building are not designed to hit Israel. Iran already has missiles for that.
Those ICBMs are designed to reach Europe and the United States – to reach New York, Washington and Miami.