Prime Minister Netanyahu has unswervingly – and correctly — insisted that the Iranian nuclear threat is a global problem and should not be allowed to be portrayed as an Israeli issue. Shifting the focus to Israel would be harmful to the Jewish state and undermine the campaign to de-nuke the ayatollahs, he said.
Good advice. So why didn’t he take it?
Netanyahu, more than anyone, deserves credit for putting the issue atop the international agenda and convincing the United States to lead a worldwide campaign to impose economic, diplomatic and military pressure, marked by a tough sanctions regime, designed to get the Iranians to the negotiating table. Always in the background was the threat of Israeli military action.
But when that strategy succeeded and Iran said it was ready to talk, Netanyahu quickly had second thoughts and began piling on demands that he knew the Iranians – and the world powers — would never accept.
He has hammered home his views with his Wile E Coyote cartoon at the United Nations and in speeches, talk shows and media interviews.
Yet as effective as he has been in sounding the alarm, no one has done more damage to his cause than Netanyahu himself.
Starting long before he even knew what was in the deal he declared his unequivocal opposition – easy to do since he knew his demands were unrealistic and could never be met. His attacks were consistently strident, frequently inaccurate and sometimes borderline hysterical.
He squandered an opportunity to influence the outcome not only of the Big Power negotiations but the subsequent public debate as well. His plunge into American partisan politics seriously damaged his effectiveness.
In the process, he so dominated the discussion that he made the Republicans look like foot soldiers marching to his orders with AIPAC and other Jewish organizations in tow.
He has done exactly what he warned against – making this an Israeli issue instead of a global problem.
Playing divisive, partisan politics he brought Israeli-US relations to a new low.
Along the way he has undermined bipartisan Congressional support for Israel by alienating the Democratic Party and left a deeply divided Jewish community drifting away from Israel. And that could prove far more damaging than any Iranian bomb.