Netanyahu’s US Congress speech on Iran
Mar 6, 2015
March 6, 2105
Number 03/15 #01
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu gave his long-discussed and controversial address to the US Congress on Tuesday, Washington time (this was early Wednesday morning in Australia.) This Update deals with the effect and aftermath of that speech.
The full text of what Netanyahu said is below – video of it can be seen here. We recommend it be read or viewed in full, not least because much of the media coverage in Australia of the speech has frankly been less than helpful – and sometimes even less than truthful – in helping media consumers understand the gist of what Netanyahu said.
The first analysis in this Update comes from David Horovitz, editor of the Times of Israel, who argues that while the speech was impressive – he calls it the speech of Netanyahu’s life – it “caused devastating, presumably irrevocable damage to his relationship with President Barack Obama”. He notes that while the speech began with numerous expressions of gratitude to the US President for his support, the essence of it was a strong assault on the Obama Administration’s overall policies toward Iran – including not only the nuclear negotiations, but a wider refusal to confront or understand the Iranian goals and behaviour in terms of terrorism, expansionism, and ideology. Horovitz also notes that, despite the response from the White House claiming Netanyahu offered no alternative to their planned agreement, he did in fact do so, calling for the “P5+1 to recalibrate, to reconsider, and then to push for a better deal” backed up by tightened sanctions. He has a lot more to say, so to read all Horovitz’s analysis, CLICK HERE.
Next up is American law professor and widely published pundit Alan Dershowitz, who offers more discussion of Netanyahu’s alternative to the deal currently being proposed. Dershowitz notes that Netanyahu also requested that the sunset clause in the proposed deal – rumoured to be 10 years, after which Iran will be freed of current nuclear restrictions – should be contingent on Iran improving its behaviour in three areas – stopping its export of terrorism, its intrusion in the affairs of other countries, and its threats to the existence of Israel. Dershowitz argues that these ideas appear sensible and the ball is now in the court of the Obama Administration to explain whether there is a better way to prevent nuclear Iran from continuing such destablising activities into the future. For Dershowitz’s argument in full, CLICK HERE.
The final response is notable not only for its argument, but for who the author is – Ambassador Dennis Ross, who was a senior advisor to President Obama on Iran policy during his first term. He notes that Netanyahu makes a strong case that the proposed nuclear deal will leave a break-out time for producing weapons-grade uranium that is too short, have an inadequate inspection regime, and worst of all, will permit Iran to build as much nuclear infrastructure as it wants when the deal expires, thus allowing Teheran to create nuclear weapons whenever it chooses. He argues that the Administration’s response – simply saying there is no better alternative – begs the question of whether such a deal is acceptable, and suggests a number of measures that could be taken which would address Netanyahu’s legitimate concerns. For this important look at the controversy from an Administration insider, CLICK HERE. Also arguing that Netanyahu has a good case that should be substantively addressed by the Administration is the Washington Post.
Readers may also be interested in:
- An excellent video analysis of the speech from Washington Institute executive director Dr. Robert Satloff on what was new in Netanyahu’s comments.
- Dr. Gerald Steinberg points out that Netanyahu’s stance on Iran actually follows previous Israeli PMs, all the way back to Rabin.
- The New York Times points out that Netanyahu did not repeat his past calls for zero enrichment by Iran in the speech, marking a shift in Israeli policy.
- Interesting editorials on the speech from the Wall Street Journal, Jerusalem Post, and Boston Herald.
- Two important pieces on the questionable assumptions behind the provisions of the US Administration’s planned Iran deal (as reported based on leaks) – from Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post and David Brooks of the New York Times. Krauthammer also subsequently published a strong critique of the White House’s response to the speech.
- Prominent Saudi writer and columnist Dr. Ahmad Al-Faraj supports Netanyahu on Iran. Plus, more on why most Arab states agree with Netanyahu. Also, a story on the reactions in Israel to the speech.
- Haviv Rettig Gur and Lee Smith offer some explanations, rooted in their different worldviews, for the poor relations between Netanyahu and Obama.
- Isi Leibler discusses a variety of issues in a radio interview – including the Israeli election campaign and Netanyahu’s address to the UN Congress.
- Sharyn Mittleman on some international statesmen speaking out against delegitimisation of Israel.
Below is the full transcript of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahus remarks on March 3rd, 2015.
NETANYAHU: Thank you.
Speaker of the House John Boehner, President Pro Tem Senator Orrin Hatch, Senator Minority Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
I also want to acknowledge Senator, Democratic Leader Harry Reid. Harry, its good to see you back on your feet.
I guess its true what they say, you cant keep a good man down.
My friends, Im deeply humbled by the opportunity to speak for a third time before the most important legislative body in the world, the U.S. Congress.
I want to thank you all for being here today. I know that my speech has been the subject of much controversy. I deeply regret that some perceive my being here as political. That was never my intention.
I want to thank you, Democrats and Republicans, for your common support for Israel, year after year, decade after decade.
I know that no matter on which side of the aisle you sit, you stand with Israel.
The remarkable alliance between Israel and the United States has always been above politics. It must always remain above politics.
Because America and Israel, we share a common destiny, the destiny of promised lands that cherish freedom and offer hope. Israel is grateful for the support of American of Americas people and of Americas presidents, from Harry Truman to Barack Obama.
We appreciate all that President Obama has done for Israel.
Now, some of that is widely known.
Some of that is widely known, like strengthening security cooperation and intelligence sharing, opposing anti-Israel resolutions at the U.N.
Some of what the president has done for Israel is less well- known.
I called him in 2010 when we had the Carmel forest fire, and he immediately agreed to respond to my request for urgent aid.
In 2011, we had our embassy in Cairo under siege, and again, he provided vital assistance at the crucial moment.
Or his support for more missile interceptors during our operation last summer when we took on Hamas terrorists.
In each of those moments, I called the president, and he was there.
And some of what the president has done for Israel might never be known, because it touches on some of the most sensitive and strategic issues that arise between an American president and an Israeli prime minister.
But I know it, and I will always be grateful to President Obama for that support.
And Israel is grateful to you, the American Congress, for your support, for supporting us in so many ways, especially in generous military assistance and missile defense, including Iron Dome.
Last summer, millions of Israelis were protected from thousands of Hamas rockets because this capital dome helped build our Iron Dome.
Thank you, America. Thank you for everything youve done for Israel.
My friends, Ive come here today because, as prime minister of Israel, I feel a profound obligation to speak to you about an issue that could well threaten the survival of my country and the future of my people: Irans quest for nuclear weapons.
Were an ancient people. In our nearly 4,000 years of history, many have tried repeatedly to destroy the Jewish people. Tomorrownight, on the Jewish holiday of Purim, well read the Book of Esther. Well read of a powerful Persian viceroy named Haman, who plotted to destroy the Jewish people some 2,500 years ago. But a courageous Jewish woman, Queen Esther, exposed the plot and gave for the Jewish people the right to defend themselves against their enemies.
The plot was foiled. Our people were saved.
Today the Jewish people face another attempt by yet another Persian potentate to destroy us. Irans Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei spews the oldest hatred, the oldest hatred of anti-Semitism with the newest technology. He tweets that Israel must be annihilated he tweets. You know, in Iran, there isnt exactly free Internet. But he tweets in English that Israel must be destroyed.
For those who believe that Iran threatens the Jewish state, but not the Jewish people, listen to Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, Irans chief terrorist proxy. He said: If all the Jews gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of chasing them down around the world.
But Irans regime is not merely a Jewish problem, any more than the Nazi regime was merely a Jewish problem. The 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis were but a fraction of the 60 million people killed in World War II. So, too, Irans regime poses a grave threat, not only to Israel, but also the peace of the entire world. To understand just how dangerous Iran would be with nuclear weapons, we must fully understand the nature of the regime.
The people of Iran are very talented people. Theyre heirs to one of the worlds great civilizations. But in 1979, they were hijacked by religious zealots religious zealots who imposed on them immediately a dark and brutal dictatorship.
That year, the zealots drafted a constitution, a new one for Iran. It directed the revolutionary guards not only to protect Irans borders, but also to fulfill the ideological mission of jihad. The regimes founder, Ayatollah Khomeini, exhorted his followers to export the revolution throughout the world.
Im standing here in Washington, D.C. and the difference is so stark. Americas founding document promises life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Irans founding document pledges death, tyranny, and the pursuit of jihad. And as states are collapsing across the Middle East, Iran is charging into the void to do just that.
Irans goons in Gaza, its lackeys in Lebanon, its revolutionary guards on the Golan Heights are clutching Israel with three tentacles of terror. Backed by Iran, Assad is slaughtering Syrians. Back by Iran, Shiite militias are rampaging through Iraq. Back by Iran, Houthis are seizing control of Yemen, threatening the strategic straits at the mouth of the Red Sea. Along with the Straits of Hormuz, that would give Iran a second choke-point on the worlds oil supply.
Just last week, near Hormuz, Iran carried out a military exercise blowing up a mock U.S. aircraft carrier. Thats just last week, while theyre having nuclear talks with the United States. But unfortunately, for the last 36 years, Irans attacks against the United States have been anything but mock. And the targets have been all too real.
Iran took dozens of Americans hostage in Tehran, murdered hundreds of American soldiers, Marines, in Beirut, and was responsible for killing and maiming thousands of American service men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Beyond the Middle East, Iran attacks America and its allies through its global terror network. It blew up the Jewish community center and the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires. It helped Al Qaida bomb U.S. embassies in Africa. It even attempted to assassinate the Saudi ambassador, right here in Washington, D.C.
In the Middle East, Iran now dominates four Arab capitals, Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa. And if Irans aggression is left unchecked, more will surely follow.
So, at a time when many hope that Iran will join the community of nations, Iran is busy gobbling up the nations.
We must all stand together to stop Irans march of conquest, subjugation and terror.
Now, two years ago, we were told to give President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif a chance to bring change and moderation to Iran. Some change! Some moderation!
Rouhanis government hangs gays, persecutes Christians, jails journalists and executes even more prisoners than before.
Last year, the same Zarif who charms Western diplomats laid a wreath at the grave of Imad Mughniyeh. Imad Mughniyeh is the terrorist mastermind who spilled more American blood than any other terrorist besides Osama bin Laden. Id like to see someone ask him a question about that.
Irans regime is as radical as ever, its cries of Death to America, that same America that it calls the Great Satan, as loud as ever.
Now, this shouldnt be surprising, because the ideology of Irans revolutionary regime is deeply rooted in militant Islam, and thats why this regime will always be an enemy of America.
Dont be fooled. The battle between Iran and ISIS doesnt turn Iran into a friend of America.
Iran and ISIS are competing for the crown of militant Islam. One calls itself the Islamic Republic. The other calls itself the Islamic State. Both want to impose a militant Islamic empire first on the region and then on the entire world. They just disagree among themselves who will be the ruler of that empire.
In this deadly game of thrones, theres no place for America or for Israel, no peace for Christians, Jews or Muslims who dont share the Islamist medieval creed, no rights for women, no freedom for anyone.
So when it comes to Iran and ISIS, the enemy of your enemy is your enemy.
The difference is that ISIS is armed with butcher knives, captured weapons and YouTube, whereas Iran could soon be armed with intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear bombs. We must always remember Ill say it one more time the greatest dangers facing our world is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons. To defeat ISIS and let Iran get nuclear weapons would be to win the battle, but lose the war. We cant let that happen.
But that, my friends, is exactly what could happen, if the deal now being negotiated is accepted by Iran. That deal will not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. It would all but guarantee that Iran gets those weapons, lots of them.
Let me explain why. While the final deal has not yet been signed, certain elements of any potential deal are now a matter of public record. You dont need intelligence agencies and secret information to know this. You can Google it.
Absent a dramatic change, we know for sure that any deal with Iran will include two major concessions to Iran.
The first major concession would leave Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure, providing it with a short break-out time to the bomb. Break-out time is the time it takes to amass enough weapons-grade uranium or plutonium for a nuclear bomb.
According to the deal, not a single nuclear facility would be demolished. Thousands of centrifuges used to enrich uranium would be left spinning. Thousands more would be temporarily disconnected, but not destroyed.
Because Irans nuclear program would be left largely intact, Irans break-out time would be very short about a year by U.S. assessment, even shorter by Israels.
And if if Irans work on advanced centrifuges, faster and faster centrifuges, is not stopped, that break-out time could still be shorter, a lot shorter.
True, certain restrictions would be imposed on Irans nuclear program and Irans adherence to those restrictions would be supervised by international inspectors. But heres the problem. You see, inspectors document violations; they dont stop them.
Inspectors knew when North Korea broke to the bomb, but that didnt stop anything. North Korea turned off the cameras, kicked out the inspectors. Within a few years, it got the bomb.
Now, were warned that within five years North Korea could have an arsenal of 100 nuclear bombs.
Like North Korea, Iran, too, has defied international inspectors. Its done that on at least three separate occasions 2005, 2006, 2010. Like North Korea, Iran broke the locks, shut off the cameras.
Now, I know this is not gonna come a shock as a shock to any of you, but Iran not only defies inspectors, it also plays a pretty good game of hide-and-cheat with them.
The U.N.s nuclear watchdog agency, the IAEA, said again yesterday that Iran still refuses to come clean about its military nuclear program. Iran was also caught caught twice, not once, twice operating secret nuclear facilities in Natanz and Qom, facilities that inspectors didnt even know existed.
Right now, Iran could be hiding nuclear facilities that we dont know about, the U.S. and Israel. As the former head of inspections for the IAEA said in 2013, he said, If theres no undeclared installation today in Iran, it will be the first time in 20 years that it doesnt have one. Iran has proven time and again that it cannot be trusted. And thats why the first major concession is a source of great concern. It leaves Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure and relies on inspectors to prevent a breakout. That concession creates a real danger that Iran could get to the bomb by violating the deal.
But the second major concession creates an even greater danger that Iran could get to the bomb by keeping the deal. Because virtually all the restrictions on Irans nuclear program will automatically expire in about a decade.
Now, a decade may seem like a long time in political life, but its the blink of an eye in the life of a nation. Its a blink of an eye in the life of our children. We all have a responsibility to consider what will happen when Irans nuclear capabilities are virtually unrestricted and all the sanctions will have been lifted. Iran would then be free to build a huge nuclear capacity that could product many, many nuclear bombs.
Irans Supreme Leader says that openly. He says, Iran plans to have 190,000 centrifuges, not 6,000 or even the 19,000 that Iran has today, but 10 times that amount 190,000 centrifuges enriching uranium. With this massive capacity, Iran could make the fuel for an entire nuclear arsenal and this in a matter of weeks, once it makes that decision.
My long-time friend, John Kerry, Secretary of State, confirmed last week that Iran could legitimately possess that massive centrifuge capacity when the deal expires.
Now I want you to think about that. The foremost sponsor of global terrorism could be weeks away from having enough enriched uranium for an entire arsenal of nuclear weapons and this with full international legitimacy.
And by the way, if Irans Intercontinental Ballistic Missile program is not part of the deal, and so far, Iran refuses to even put it on the negotiating table. Well, Iran could have the means to deliver that nuclear arsenal to the far-reach corners of the earth, including to every part of the United States.
So you see, my friends, this deal has two major concessions: one, leaving Iran with a vast nuclear program and two, lifting the restrictions on that program in about a decade. Thats why this deal is so bad. It doesnt block Irans path to the bomb; it paves Irans path to the bomb.
So why would anyone make this deal? Because they hope that Iran will change for the better in the coming years, or they believe that the alternative to this deal is worse?
Well, I disagree. I dont believe that Irans radical regime will change for the better after this deal. This regime has been in power for 36 years, and its voracious appetite for aggression grows with each passing year. This deal would wet appetite would only wet Irans appetite for more.
Would Iran be less aggressive when sanctions are removed and its economy is stronger? If Iran is gobbling up four countries right now while its under sanctions, how many more countries will Iran devour when sanctions are lifted? Would Iran fund less terrorism when it has mountains of cash with which to fund more terrorism?
Why should Irans radical regime change for the better when it can enjoy the best of both worlds: aggression abroad, prosperity at home?
This is a question that everyone asks in our region. Israels neighbors Irans neighbors know that Iran will become even more aggressive and sponsor even more terrorism when its economy is unshackled and its been given a clear path to the bomb.
And many of these neighbors say theyll respond by racing to get nuclear weapons of their own. So this deal wont change Iran for the better; it will only change the Middle East for the worse. A deal thats supposed to prevent nuclear proliferation would instead spark a nuclear arms race in the most dangerous part of the planet.
This deal wont be a farewell to arms. It would be a farewell to arms control. And the Middle East would soon be crisscrossed by nuclear tripwires. A region where small skirmishes can trigger big wars would turn into a nuclear tinderbox.
If anyone thinks if anyone thinks this deal kicks the can down the road, think again. When we get down that road, well face a much more dangerous Iran, a Middle East littered with nuclear bombs and a countdown to a potential nuclear nightmare.
Ladies and gentlemen, Ive come here today to tell you we dont have to bet the security of the world on the hope that Iran will change for the better. We dont have to gamble with our future and with our childrens future.
We can insist that restrictions on Irans nuclear program not be lifted for as long as Iran continues its aggression in the region and in the world.
Before lifting those restrictions, the world should demand that Iran do three things. First, stop its aggression against its neighbors in the Middle East. Second
Second, stop supporting terrorism around the world.
And third, stop threatening to annihilate my country, Israel, the one and only Jewish state.
If the world powers are not prepared to insist that Iran change its behavior before a deal is signed, at the very least they should insist that Iran change its behavior before a deal expires.
If Iran changes its behavior, the restrictions would be lifted. If Iran doesnt change its behavior, the restrictions should not be lifted.
If Iran wants to be treated like a normal country, let it act like a normal country.
My friends, what about the argument that theres no alternative to this deal, that Irans nuclear know-how cannot be erased, that its nuclear program is so advanced that the best we can do is delay the inevitable, which is essentially what the proposed deal seeks to do?
Well, nuclear know-how without nuclear infrastructure doesnt get you very much. A racecar driver without a car cant drive. A pilot without a plan cant fly. Without thousands of centrifuges, tons of enriched uranium or heavy water facilities, Iran cant make nuclear weapons.
Irans nuclear program can be rolled back well-beyond the current proposal by insisting on a better deal and keeping up the pressure on a very vulnerable regime, especially given the recent collapse in the price of oil.
Now, if Iran threatens to walk away from the table and this often happens in a Persian bazaar call their bluff. Theyll be back, because they need the deal a lot more than you do.
And by maintaining the pressure on Iran and on those who do business with Iran, you have the power to make them need it even more.
My friends, for over a year, weve been told that no deal is better than a bad deal. Well, this is a bad deal. Its a very bad deal. Were better off without it.
Now were being told that the only alternative to this bad deal is war. Thats just not true.
The alternative to this bad deal is a much better deal.
A better deal that doesnt leave Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure and such a short break-out time. A better deal that keeps the restrictions on Irans nuclear program in place until Irans aggression ends.
A better deal that wont give Iran an easy path to the bomb. A better deal that Israel and its neighbors may not like, but with which we could live, literally. And no country
no country has a greater stake no country has a greater stake than Israel in a good deal that peacefully removes this threat.
Ladies and gentlemen, history has placed us at a fateful crossroads. We must now choose between two paths. One path leads to a bad deal that will at best curtail Irans nuclear ambitions for a while, but it will inexorably lead to a nuclear-armed Iran whose unbridled aggression will inevitably lead to war.
The second path, however difficult, could lead to a much better deal, that would prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, a nuclearized Middle East and the horrific consequences of both to all of humanity.
You dont have to read Robert Frost to know. You have to live life to know that the difficult path is usually the one less traveled, but it will make all the difference for the future of my country, the security of the Middle East and the peace of the world, the peace, we all desire.
My friend, standing up to Iran is not easy. Standing up to dark and murderous regimes never is. With us today is Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel.
Elie, your life and work inspires to give meaning to the words, never again.
And I wish I could promise you, Elie, that the lessons of history have been learned. I can only urge the leaders of the world not to repeat the mistakes of the past.
Not to sacrifice the future for the present; not to ignore aggression in the hopes of gaining an illusory peace.
But I can guarantee you this, the days when the Jewish people remained passive in the face of genocidal enemies, those days are over.
We are no longer scattered among the nations, powerless to defend ourselves. We restored our sovereignty in our ancient home. And the soldiers who defend our home have boundless courage. For the first time in 100 generations, we, the Jewish people, can defend ourselves.
This is why this is why, as a prime minister of Israel, I can promise you one more thing: Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand.
But I know that Israel does not stand alone. I know that America stands with Israel.
I know that you stand with Israel.
You stand with Israel, because you know that the story of Israel is not only the story of the Jewish people but of the human spirit that refuses again and again to succumb to historys horrors.
Facing me right up there in the gallery, overlooking all of us in this (inaudible) chamber is the image of Moses. Moses led our people from slavery to the gates of the Promised Land.
And before the people of Israel entered the land of Israel, Moses gave us a message that has steeled our resolve for thousands of years. I leave you with his message today, (SPEAKING IN HEBREW), Be strong and resolute, neither fear nor dread them.
My friends, may Israel and America always stand together, strong and resolute. May we neither fear nor dread the challenges ahead. May we face the future with confidence, strength and hope.
May God bless the state of Israel and may God bless the United States of America.
Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you all.
Thank you, America. Thank you.
The PM knowingly sacrifices what remained of his relationship with the president in a bid to thwart a very bad deal with Iran
Times of Israel, March 3, 2015
On CNN, former administration official Martin Indyk called ties between the two leaders toxic. And that was moments before Netanyahu began his address. Its hard to imagine the adjective that would best describe feelings in the Oval Office once the prime minister was done.
The next meeting between the two men will be fascinating to contemplate. And while Obama will hope even more fervently now that there will be no next meeting that Netanyahu will fail to win reelection the prime minister will not have done his electoral prospects any harm at all with this address. Many undecided Israelis will be asking themselves whether, in a moment of crisis, they can envisage Isaac Herzog holding the American parliament similarly mesmerized in support of a cause of passionate concern for Israel, and the answer will be no.
Although diplomatic in tone and complete with deliberate Churchillian flourishes some change, some moderation, he intoned of Iran under Hassan Rouhani Netanyahu’s speech was in essence a devastating assault on Obama. He began, dutifully, with expressions of appreciation for the president, and for everything the president has done for Israel. But he continued, for the vast majority of his address, to explain the profound misjudgment of Iran, its ideology, its goals, and the immense danger it constitutes to Israel, the region, the United States, and the world that lies at the heart of the very bad deal emerging from the US-led P5+1 negotiations. And thus, by extension, he was explaining the profound misjudgment of Iran at the core of Obamas worldview and policies.
While Israelis broadly oppose the deal they see taking shape, and mistrust Obama when it comes to stopping a nuclear Iran, there was no consensus in Israel about the tactic of addressing Congress at this juncture, no little criticism of the move as an electoral gambit, two weeks before Israeli election day. And Netanyahu is indeed an ultra-sophisticated politician whose only regret about the timing of the speech was that it didnt start two hours later when it would have gone out live, albeit with the court-mandated five-minute delay, on the main 8 p.m. Israeli news broadcasts.
But Netanyahu’s address had a clear practical goal as well. He was lobbying Congress, and lobbying the American public watching at home to pressure Congress, to assert its maximal capacity to thwart the progress of the deal that Obama has cooked up. While 50 or 60 legislators elected to absent themselves, the vast majority of Republicans and Democrats were there to nod sagely at Netanyahus elaboration of Irans rapacious, religiously driven ideology and territorial ambitions, to applaud, to jump to their feet, to be won over.
For all the cynicism and the political filtering over Netanyahu’s motivations, furthermore, the prime minister is convinced, in his heart of hearts, that Iran is determined to advance its benighted ideology across the region and beyond. The prime minister is convinced, in his heart of hearts, that the deal taking shape will immunize the ayatollahs from any prospect of revolution from within or effective challenge from without. The deal doesnt block Irans path to the bomb, he warned. It paves Irans path to the bomb.
And the cardinal fact is that the prime minister is convinced, in his heart of hearts, that the Islamist regime in Tehran is bent on the destruction of Israel. Ayatollah Khamenei tweets that Israel must be annihilated, Netanyahu wailed, repeating: He tweets! You know, in Iran, there isnt exactly free Internet. But he tweets in English that Israel must be destroyed.
Although a first response to his speech from an unnamed White House official said that Netanyahu had offered no concrete alternative to the deal taking shape, and that his speech was all rhetoric and no action, and despite Obamas subsequent elaborate defense of the US approach, the prime minister did offer an alternative. He urged the P5+1 to recalibrate, to reconsider, and then to push for a better deal. And if Iran threatens to walk away from the table and this often happens in a Persian bazaar call their bluff, he advised, the wise, wary Middle Easterner lecturing Obama and the other Western naifs. Theyll be back, because they need the deal a lot more than you do.
When my long-time friend, John Kerry, had confirmed to Netanyahu that Iran could legitimately possess 190,000 centrifuges enriching uranium when the deal expires; when the terms taking shape would leave Iran a year or less from a break out to the bomb; when Iran could be relied upon to play hide and cheat with the inspectors; when Iran would be free under the deal to continue development of the missiles with which it could deliver nuclear weapons when these and other dangers were being built into an Obama-pushed agreement, then, yes, the price of alienating the current US administration is quite clearly one that Netanyahu is willing to pay.
Of course it is. For Obama will be gone in two years. But the way Netanyahu sees it, the way Netanyahu spelled it out with such compelling detail and passion on Tuesday, if this kind of deal is finalized with Iran, the ayatollahs will be threatening us all, and will be capable of doing far more than just threaten, for the foreseeable future.
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by Alan M. Dershowitz
Gatestone Institute, March 4, 2015
I was in the House gallery when Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a logical and compelling critique of the deal now on the table regarding Iran’s ambitions to obtain nuclear weapons. He laid out a new fact-based proposal that has shifted the burden of persuasion to the White House.
His new proposal is that “If the world powers are not prepared to insist that Iran change its behavior before a deal is signed, at the very least they should insist that Iran change its behavior before a deal expires.” His argument is that without such a precondition, the ten-year sunset provision paves, rather than blocks, the way to an Iranian nuclear arsenal, even if Iran were to continue to export terrorism, to bully nations in the region and to call for the extermination of Israel.
With logic that seems unassailable, Netanyahu has said that the alternative to this bad deal is not war, but rather “a better deal that Israel and its neighbors might not like, but which we could live with, literally.” Netanyahu then outlined his condition for a better deal: namely that before the sun is allowed to set on prohibiting Iran from developing nuclear weapons, the mullahs must first meet three conditions: stop exporting terrorism, stop intruding in the affairs of other countries, and stop threatening the existence of Israel.
If the mullahs reject these three reasonable conditions, it will demonstrate that they have no real interest in joining the international community and abiding by its rules. If they accept these conditions, then the sunset provision will not kick in automatically but will require that Iran demonstrate a willingness to play by the rules, before the rules allow it to develop nuclear weapons.
Instead of attacking the messenger, as the White House has done, the Administration now has an obligation to engage with Netanyahu in the marketplace of ideas, rather than in a cacophony of name-calling, and to respond to Netanyahu’s argument on its merit. There may be persuasive responses, but we have not yet heard them.
The decision to accept or reject a deal with Iran over its nuclear weapons program may be the most important foreign policy issue of the 21st century. Many members of Congress, perhaps most, agree with the Prime Minister of Israel, rather than with the President of the United States on this issue. Under our system of separation of powers, Congress is a fully co-equal branch of the government, and no major decision of the kind involved in this deal should be made over its opposition. Perhaps the President can persuade Congress to support this deal, but it must engage with, rather than ignore, our duly elected representatives of the people.
The Administration and its supporters, particularly those who boycotted the Prime Minister’s speech, focus on the so-called lack of protocol by which Netanyahu was invited by the Speaker of the House. Imagine, however, the same protocol for a speaker who favored rather than opposed the current deal. The White House and its supporters would be welcoming a Prime Minister who supported the President’s deal, as they did British Prime Minister David Cameron, when he was sent in to lobby the Senate in favor of the Administration’s position. So the protocol issue is largely a pretext. The Administration is upset more by the content of Netanyahu’s speech than by the manner in which he received the invitation.
This is too important an issue to get sidetracked by the formalities of protocol. The speech has now been given. It was a balanced speech that included praise for the President, for the Democrats, for Congress and for the American people. Prime Minister Netanyahu was at his diplomatic best. In my view, he was also at his substantive best in laying out the case against the Administration’s negotiating position with regard to Iran, especially the unconditional sunset provision.
The Administration must now answer one fundamental question: Why would you allow the Iranian regime to develop nuclear weapons in ten years, if at that time they were still exporting terrorism, bullying their Arab neighbors and threatening to exterminate Israel? Why not, at the very least, condition any “sunset” provision on a change in the actions of this criminal regime? The answer may be that we can’t get them to agree to this condition. If that is the case, then this is indeed a bad deal that is worse than no deal. It would be far better to increase economic sanctions and other pressures, rather than to end them in exchange for a mere postponement of Iran obtaining a nuclear arsenal.
There may be better answers, but the ball is now in Obama’s court to provide them, rather than to avoid answering Netanyahu’s reasonable questions by irrelevant answers about “protocol” and personal attacks on the messenger. Israel deserves better. The world deserves better. The American people deserve better. And Congress deserves better.
An unconditional sunset provision is an invitation to an Iran that continues to export terrorism, bully neighbors and threaten Israel but with a nuclear arsenal to terrorize the entire world. This would be “a game changer”, to quote President Obama’s words from several years ago, when he promised that he would never allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. Suddenly, “never” has become “soon.” Congress should insist that any provision allowing Iran to develop nuclear weapons after ten years must at the very least be conditioned on a significant change of behavior by the world’s most dangerous regime.
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USA Today, March 4, 2015
Washington has left too many questions unanswered in a possible nuclear deal with Iran.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a strong case to the Congress about why he thinks the potential agreement with Iran on its nuclear program is a “very bad deal.” Leaving aside his fears that lifting sanctions will provide Iran more resources to pursue trouble-making in the Middle East, the prime minister worries that a deal that permits Iran to be a threshold nuclear state will not prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons but actually pave the way for it to do so.
Netanyahu believes that the break-out time for producing weapons-grade uranium will inevitably be too short — indeed, less than the year President Obama speaks about — and that inspections of the Iranian program will necessarily be too limited and, in any case, promise no action in the face of violations. Worse, Iran will be treated like Japan or the Netherlands after the agreement expires in 10-15 years, permitting it to build tens of thousands of centrifuges and enabling it to produce a weapon at a time of its choosing.
Accepting the mantra that “no deal is better than a bad deal,” Netanyahu offers the alternative of insisting on better terms and increasing the pressure on the Iranians until a more credible agreement is reached. He does not fear the Iranians walking away from the negotiating table because, in his words, they need the deal more than the U.S. and its partners.
While the Obama administration is unlikely to accept his argument that it should simply negotiate better and harder, it should not dismiss the concerns he raises about the emerging deal. Indeed, the administration argument that there is no better alternative than the deal it is negotiating begs the question of whether the prospective agreement is acceptable.
And, here, the administration needs to explain why the deal it is trying to conclude actually will prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons for the life-time of the agreement and afterwards. It needs to explain why the combination of the number and quality of centrifuges, their output, and the ship-out from Iran of enriched uranium will, in fact, ensure that the break-out time for the Iranians will not be less than one year. Either this combination adds up or it does not, but there should be an explicit answer to Netanyahu’s charge that Iran will be able to break-out much more quickly.
Similarly, there should be an answer on how the verification regime is going to work to ensure that we can detect, even in a larger nuclear program, any Iranian violation of the agreement. The issue of verification is critical not just because Iran’s past clandestine nuclear efforts prove it cannot be trusted but also because the administration has made a one year break-out time the key measure of success of the agreement. But we can only be certain that Iran will be one year away from being able to produce a bomb’s supply of weapons-grade uranium if we can detect what they are doing when they do it.
Obviously, detection is only part of the equation. We cannot wait to determine what we will do about violations when they happen. Iran must know in advance what the consequences are for violations, particularly if we want to deter them in the first place. And this clearly goes to the heart of Netanyahu’s concerns: if he had high confidence that we would impose harsh consequences in response to Iranian violations, including the use of force if we caught Iran dashing toward a weapon, he would be less fearful of the agreement he believes is going to emerge.
But he does not see that, and he fears as with past arms control agreements that we will seek to discuss violations and not respond to them until it is too late. So the administration should address this fear and prove it means what it says by spelling out different categories of violations and the consequences for each — and then seek congressional authorization to empower this president and his successors to act on these consequences.
If applied also to Iranian moves toward a nuclear weapon after the expiration of the deal, the administration would truly be answering the most significant of the concerns that Netanyahu raised. Maybe then, this episode of U.S.-Israeli tension would be overcome.
Dennis Ross, the counselor and William Davidson Distinguished Fellow at The Washington Institute, served as a senior Middle East advisor to President Obama from 2009 to 2011. This article was made possible in part by support from the Irwin Levy Family Program on the U.S.-Israel Strategic Relationship.