By Thomas Ashe
On March 3, in a controversial move, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a speech to the joint session of Congress just a few weeks ahead of the Israeli elections. According to the Huffington Post, Netanyahu insisted that the timing of the speech was motivated by the urgency of the Iran nuclear negotiations and had nothing to do with the upcoming elections. However, while that claim remains dubious at best, a bigger problem in regards to the speech was the fact that it presented no clear alternative to the current deal being negotiated with Iran, the United States, and the five other major powers. While Netanyahu did successfully outline strong reasons why he opposed the deal, he left policymakers asking themselves one fundamental question: What is your strategy?
This speech was undoubtedly controversial, and Netanyahu specifically noted that. However, the speech itself also lacked focus. Rather outlining specific goals he would like to achieve, or describing how he would achieve them, Netanyahu simply made a politically charged speech just weeks before an election back at home.
Moreover, as he has done in the past, he spoke to the United States and Israel’s unbreakable bond and the history of Iran’s aggression. However, while it is important to speak about the relationship between the United States and Israel, doing so on three separate occasions, and that too numerous times is unnecessarily repetitive.
Seemingly following his theme of repetitiveness, Netanyahu also read from a sheet of paper throughout his speech, pointing to several attacks and threats made by Iran. It was as if Netanyahu thought the United States was unaware of, or should be reminded of the history of Iran. In his speech, he told lawmakers:
“While the final deal has not yet been signed, certain elements of any potential deal are now a matter of public record. You don’t need intelligence agencies and secret information to know this. You can Google it.”
So, what did Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accomplish during his short visit to the United States? First, Netanyahu further divided members of Congress on the issue, insulted the President and Secretary of State by not informing them of his visit, and did not suggest any new ideas for reducing Iran’s nuclear arsenal. It was as if his trip produced more negatives than positives, if any positives at all.
It is no secret that Netanyahu and President Obama have often disagreed on major policy initiatives before and do not possess the relationship Roosevelt and Churchill had. But, what is even more unfortunate is that this political grandstanding does nothing to solve the issue at hand – ensuring Iran does not possess any nuclear weapons.
It is clear that Netanyahu’s address to the American people was only political in nature, and further alienated the country on the issue. It surely speaks volumes when members of Congress boycott a speech made by a foreign leader, let alone a leader of such an important country like the state of Israel.