Netanyahu’s Myopia on the Iran Deal

Often, when we Diaspora Jews offer a slightly less than absolutely-hawkish view of a conflict involving Israel, we are told that “you don’t understand, you don’t live here.” To an extent, I accept this argument, and would never tell Israelis living under rocket fire that the IDF shouldn’t respond with necessary force.

The same, however, should be said of Israelis when it comes to politics in the United States, particularly politics involving American Jews. Israelis do not live here, and they do not necessarily understand. So I feel it’s important to write this: Benjamin Netanyahu, despite his protestations, is leading a losing political battle in the United States. His historic friendship with the Republican Party has rendered his Ambassador, Ron Dermer — also widely seen as a Republican operative — helpless. It has also put bipartisan support for Israel at unseemly risk.

Not one Republican member of the House and the Senate will oppose the planned resolution of disapproval to the Iran nuclear agreement. The Iran nuclear deal will still survive. The required dozens of Democratic House members and 13 Democratic Senators will not vote to derail the signature foreign policy achievement of a Democratic President. In 99 out of 100 simulations, this deal passes the minimal congressional scrutiny required.

But let’s even say it does happen, the deal fails in Congress, by some miracle. What will Netanyahu have achieved? Will President Obama suddenly see his way on Iran? Will Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping accept the verdict of Mitch McConnell, Tom Cotton, and Chuck Schumer — when the UN Security Council has already approved the deal? Will the executive branch really force those countries to choose between doing business in Iran and the United States? These are unreasonable expectations.

And what of Israel’s standing in the United States if this were to happen? Support for Israel has always been undergirded by bipartisan support. America has changed since the Reagan era — socially, politically, demographically, and religiously. Israel can’t be seen as an exclusively right-wing cause, as it increasingly is under Netanyahu’s abrasive approach to relations with the United States.

The path forward is simple: Netanyahu should accept the reality of the Iran deal, in the same way the Gulf states have. Not because it is a good deal, but because it is a done deal. Instead, tragically, he has chosen a futile battle that those concerned about Israel’s stature in the United States can only hope fails.

Netanyahu believes himself to be a reincarnation of Winston Churchill, but Simon Bar Kokhba appears to be a more accurate reference point.

About the Author
Abe Silberstein writes on Israeli politics, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and American foreign policy in the Middle East. He can be reached at
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