The bitter and divisive battle being led by Bibi Netanyahu will likely fail to block the Iran nuclear agreement but it could well succeed in doing what the Iranians and the Arabs only dreamed of: irreparable damage to Israel and to the American Jewish community.
Much of the community leadership here is marching in lock-step behind Netanyahu and his Republican allies, leaving far behind a rank and file that doesn’t share their opposition to the deal or their vehement disdain for President Barack Obama.
What Netanyahu has achieved is to divide the American Jewish community more deeply than ever, and more bitterly, and to accelerate the drift away from commitment by so many Jews in the political center.
Iran is not the only reason, just the latest. There is a growing communal disappointment with an Israeli government that talks about peace but has shown far greater interest in building settlements than reconciliation with the Palestinians.
If the Iran agreement fails, Obama will be the first to crow “I told you so” and Israel will be blamed for raising the risk of nuclear confrontation in the region and embarrassing the United States.
Irresponsible and dangerous attacks on Obama by right-wing Jews as anti-Israel and anti-Semitic because he pursues policies Netanyahu opposes and because he insists the Iran deal is good for the US and for Israel – a view shared by many in the Israeli defense and intelligence community – will do far more damage to Israel than to the president.
Netanyahu once said Iran’s nuclear ambitions were a global problem, not just a Jewish or Israeli issue, and he was right. But in his zeal he violated his own warning and not only made it what J. J. Goldberg in the Forward called a global battle of the Jewish people against the great world powers,” but also a personal one between him and President Obama.
Netanyahu’s bitter war of words is also undercutting the traditional bipartisan backing for the Jewish state.
Democratic support for Israel is weakening because of the highly personal attacks on their president and as Republicans, with Netanyahu’s help, are trying to turn Israel into a political wedge issue not only in the fight over the Iran nuclear deal but for the 2016 presidential election.
The net result of Netanyahu’s efforts will be deeper splits within the American Jewish community and an acceleration of the drift away from commitment to Israel, a weakening of the traditional bipartisan support for the Jewish state, still more international isolation for Israel and serious injury to US-Israel ties.
And if he does succeed in blocking the pact, Israel may find itself faced with a nuclear Iran sooner than his more dire predictions.
Not exactly a legacy to be proud of.