The Emmes Of Bibi’s Speech

Here's the emmes. The truth. Bibi Netanyahu gave a rousing speech on an important subject in his best colloquial American before an enthusiastic Congress and said nothing they haven't heard many times before. But his speech failed to live up to its hype. 

The prime minister and his aides had been saying for days that he was bringing to Washington critical new information that the White House had withheld from the Congress and the American public. He didn't deliver.

Netanyahu was treated like a rock star by his Republican hosts and got standing ovations from both sides of the aisle.  He began by saying his appearance wasn't political.  Right, and the Pope is a Buddhist. 

It was disingenuous for Netanyahu (R-Jerusalem ) to say his speech was not intended to offend the President when that was precisely its intention.  Why else arrange it behind Obama's back?

It was a truly historic event.  Not because he tied Churchill as the only foreign leader to address the Congress on three occasions, but because it was the first time the head of a foreign government came before the Congress at the invitation of the opposition to deliver a blistering attack on the policies of the President of the United States.

Netanyahu's mission was to rally opposition to a yet-unseen nuclear agreement the United States and other major world powers are negotiating with Iran. He told lawmakers and those watching around the world that President Obama was about to make a deal that "paves Iran's path to the bomb" and he was here to prevent it.

His message was trust me, not your president.  He got a shamefully enthusiastic response from his Republican hosts, who described the speech as a repudiation of the hated Obama.

Netanyahu said Secretary of State John Kerry was in Geneva at the same hour negotiating "a bad deal" and "no deal is better than a bad deal."

So what is Bibi's plan?  

Just say no, walk away from the negotiations, tighten the screws and the ayatollahs will cry uncle and cave in because they need the deal more than you do.

This is the advice of the man who for nearly 25 years has been warning that Iran was on the verge of having a nuclear weapon, and in 2002 told Congress that Iraq's nonexistent nuclear program was so advanced that Saddam Hussein was on the verge of having a bomb.

In other words, as Barack Obama said, Netanyahu offered "no viable alternative."  So what was behind the rush to Washington and give the speech now? Because he faces Israeli voters in 14 days and he wants to switch the debate back home to Iranian nukes and away from his scandals, ethics investigations, housing crisis and the economy.

Besides, those clips of the enthusiastic response in the Congress will look good on YouTube and in campaign commercials.  Just like they did in his previous election.

The concerns about Iranian nukes are legitimate, but the urgency of his speech is not.  With the deadline for an agreement March 24, Bibi could have waited 15 or 20 days or even a month.

It remains to be seen how much harm Bibi can do to an Iran deal, but it is clear he has already done considerable damage to the longstanding bipartisan pro-Israel consensus on Capitol Hill. He told his audience that the US-Israel relationship must be above partisan politics, but no one has done more to politicize it than Bibi Netanyahu. His low point was his endorsement of Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election.  This week he dug the hole a bit deeper. 

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.