Respect must be shown to Netanyahu

It is painful that members of the Obama Administration, a number of Congressional Democrats, and left-wing political activists are showing such disrespect for the political leader of an allied country, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and disrespect for Israel, by refusing to attend the speech he plans to deliver before the joint session of Congress on March 3, 2015. Netanyahu might well ask, as did the biblical Job, “Why do you hide your face and consider me your enemy?”

Opponents of the speech have manufactured a political crisis by injecting partisanship and division, and inflamed a crucial and controversial issue that deserves serious rational discussion. Those opponents, particularly Senator Patrick Leahy (Dem. Vermont), have disgraced themselves by saying that because the Israeli leader has been invited to address Congress, the Republican Party has been responsible for a “tawdry and high handed stunt that has embarrassed not only Israel but the Congress itself.” Equally reprehensible is the disrespectful labeling by Hank Johnson (Dem-Georgia) of Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer as a “longtime, right wing political hack.” One had assumed that those elected to Congress would not be unduly pained by hearing points of view other than their own.

It is unfathomable to understand the complaint that a speech to the United States on a vital issue of foreign policy, the danger of a nuclear Iran, is disrespectful of the American people and of the American system of government, or undermines President Obama’s diplomatic relations with Iran. It is to be devoutly hoped that the Democratic Party having chosen Philadelphia as the site of its 2016 National Convention, will get in touch with the Liberty Bell and the cause of freedom it represents. As an alternative, they might have considered an invitation to President Obama to speak before the Israeli Knesset, all of whose members would attend in spite of political and policy differences.

It may be naïve to think that considerations about the March 17, 2015 election in Israel are not unrelated nor irrelevant to Netanyahu’s appearance in Washington. But much more important, and indeed crucial, is the discussion of the catastrophic danger of a nuclear Iran, and the possibility of an existential threat to the State of Israel. In this regard a more significant date is March 24. Ten Democratic senators had agreed to delay, until that date, a vote on new sanctions on Iran, thus not interfering with the President’s diplomatic negotiations with Iran.

The political choice in the issue of Iran is clear: it is between those who stand firmly against a nuclear Iran, and are aware of its consequences; and those who are supporting the Obama administration position, either genuinely in believing it is the correct policy or in automatic partisan fashion.

What all those in the White House and in Congress who are so discourteous to Netanyahu forget is that Iran has refused to compromise with the P5 + 1on major issues. Among those issues are the following: the number of centrifuges Iran will maintain; the dismantling of Iran’s existing nuclear infrastructure; the development of new advanced centrifuges; the development of ballistic missiles; and military uses of nuclear technology. The only agreement so far seems to be on reduction of the stocks of enriched uranium to 20%, and even that agreement would only be for a ten-year period, a temporary restraint. Restrictions on Iran are limited both in substance and in time. Obama in his 2015 State of the Union address was incorrect in saying that the interim agreement had halted Iran’s nuclear program.

If, as Obama hopes, a deal can be reached on the complex issues, the probability is that it is he, with or without Western countries, who will make the compromise. At least 9,000 centrifuges are installed and operating, and 10,000 more are installed but inactive in Iran. The nuclear program has not been dismantled. Iran retains facilities at the underground, fortified facility at Fordow, the heavy water reactor at Arak, and the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz.

It is arguable to suggest, as Leslie Gelb has done, that Obama Team lacks the basic instincts and judgments necessary to conduct U.S. national security. Whatever one’s views on this general issue, it is evident that Obama Team and its Democratic supporters is attempting to prevent honest debate on Iran’s nuclear program. By preventing discussion of strategic issues the administration is not only behaving in deferential manner to Iran, it is also disrespectful of those who disagree in three respects.

First, it is manifest that Obama Team is trying, indirectly if not overtly, to defeat Netanyahu and his Likud Party in the Israeli parliamentary election. It is thus interfering in the politics of another country. By its disrespect toward the Israeli leader and by not disavowing the members of Congress who are boycotting Netanyahu’s speech, it is, deliberately or not, reducing bipartisan support for the State of Israel.

Secondly, the Obama Team is showing contempt for Congress in determining to postpone any Congressional vote on a deal with Iran indefinitely because it believes that the majority of Congress would oppose a deal that it would probably consider not in the best national security interests.

Thirdly, Obama has assumed a unilateral role in the Iran negotiations. At first, multilateral negotiations began along with the European Union and other countries, acting on the basis of UN Security Council Resolutions concerned with denying Iran the capability of developing a military nuclear option. Henry Kissinger pointed out that Obama has transformed them into bilateral, Iran and the U.S., negotiations, and talks that focus on the scope, not the existence, of Iran’s nuclear capability. In this Iran has already outmaneuvered the U.S.

One can admit that, as in all diplomatic relationships between nations, there have been political and policy differences between the U.S. and Israel, even going back to the opposition of George Marshall and the State Department to the creation of Israel.

But it is the height of absurdity for those opposing the speech by Netanyahu to make reckless statements about dire consequences. CREDO, “a social change organization that supports activism” states that the speech is "a reckless attempt by right wing extremists to undermine the President’s position by pushing us towards an unnecessary war with Iran.” They must know that Iran’s potential to produce nuclear weapons will not be eliminated by Obama’s policy, nor will Iran’s influence as a regional power in the Middle East be reduced.

Obama “misspoke” or “misremembered” the events when four Jews were murdered in the kosher deli in Paris by referring to the Islamist terrorist as part of “a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who… randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.” We know that the Obama administration is still incapable of using the words “Islamist terrorism,” but it should be aware that the reason for the speech of Netanyahu is the survival of the state of Israel. One can only hope, perhaps in vain, that those who intend to boycott the speech should reconsider their disrespectful behavior toward the political leader of Israel.