Unfortunately, there are many sources of tension between the Obama administration and Netanyahu’s government. The main issue of discord is, of course Iran. Obama seeks an agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran over its nuclear program that will ensure that, under his watch at least, Tehran does not get the bomb. The fact that Iran will maintain the capability to enrich uranium, and will not dismantle any of its nuclear installations, is simply swept under the rug as insignificant. Moreover, it seems that Obama considers Iran, as strange as it sounds, to be a strategic partner in the attempt to bring stability to a region beleaguered by chaos.
Consequently, the United States capitulates on the nuclear issue, and accepts a nuclear agreement with no conditions that might curtail Iran’s freedom of action. Taking over Yemen (and throwing American diplomats out of the country); carving a sphere of influence in Iraq; providing continuous support to the butcher in Damascus and strengthening Hezbollah’s grip over Lebanon; engaging in subversion in Central Asia; and maintaining its terrorist apparatus: All these are now overlooked. In the Grand Bargain between the U.S. and Iran, Tehran gets all it wants, while Washington gets an Iranian promise not to go nuclear as long as Obama is in the White House. Having made no foreign policy achievements throughout his presidency, Obama, perhaps obsessively, now wants the relationship with Iran to serve as his foreign policy legacy.
This foolish behavior negatively affects America’s own position in the Middle East, as well as the national interests of its closest ally, Israel. Although Israel has never been close to his heart, Obama understands that Israeli concerns strike a sensitive chord with the American public. And this is precisely why he does not want Netanyahu to speak in the U.S. Congress. Obama fears that Netanyahu’s speech could become a catalyst for a public debate about his own dangerous policy toward Iran, publicity which can only be damaging for him. The last thing he needs is a gifted orator such as Netanyahu pointing out the glaring deficiencies in the American approach toward Iran.
And this is precisely why Netanyahu is determined to defy Obama’s wishes. The gravity of the Iranian threat is accepted by most Israelis, of varying political hues. As long as there is a chance, however slight, that an address to Congress will reinvigorate the public debate in the U.S. on Iran, and obstruct the administration’s attempt to sign a deal, Netanyahu feels compelled to make a heroic stand, against all odds, in an attempt to thwart the Iranian nuclear threat. Paradoxically, Obama’s efforts to prevent Netanyahu from visiting Washington, and to convince Congress members to boycott the session, only increase the interest in what Israel’s prime minister has to say.
Beyond the personal animosity and the vast difference in worldviews, Obama does not want Netanyahu around because he considers Israel’s prime minister a serious spoiler of his most important foreign policy initiative — an issue of true global scale. But it is not only in Washington that Obama considers Netanyahu to be unwelcome. He’d like to oust him from Jerusalem as well, and has made every effort to unseat Israel’s prime minister — and not for the first time. Once again we are witness to American intervention in Israeli elections, through expressing displeasure with Likud candidates, providing large-scale funding to an anti-Netanyahu campaign, and enlisting Jewish activists and donors.
Obama does not want Netanyahu as prime minister of Israel even after a deal is signed with Iran. He has no desire to be exposed to Netanyahu’s continued criticism, realizing as he does that the proposed deal has many loopholes, and that Iranian violations of the agreement are probable. He also takes seriously Netanyahu’s statement that Israel is not bound by America’s unilateral agreements. In Obama’s view, a paranoid Netanyahu may still utilize the military option, and thereby destroy his only foreign policy “success.”
And Obama is probably right on this point. Among the candidates for prime minister in the upcoming elections, only Netanyahu is passionate about Iran, and only Netanyahu would consider ordering the Israel Defense Forces to attack Iranian nuclear installations in defiance of the United States. While the election campaigns in Israel are focused more on personalities than on issues, the underlying theme of the elections is the Iranian threat. Netanyahu did not refrain from escalating the conflict with Iran in January 2015, and boldly authorized the attack beyond the Syrian border that killed an Iranian general. Under certain circumstances, he could go even further. This is the key issue that Israelis are being asked to decide in March 2015, and Obama is attempting to influence this decision.
Reprinted with author’s permission from Israel Hayom