|Benjamin Netanyahu's acceptance of John Bohener's invitation to address the joint Houses of the U.S. Congress about the dangers of reaching a bad deal with Iran regarding its nuclear program has provoked increased controversy among politicians and opinion makers across both countries. The White House was opposed to such an initiative as expressed by National Security advisor Susan Rice, who described Netanyahu's speech as an encouragement of partisanship "which is not only unfortunate, but destructive to the fabric of [our bilateral] relations." Other prominent experts such as Mel Levine and Oded Eran have written as well that Netanyahu's move jeopardize the U.S. bipartisan support to Israel.|
However, as Netanyahu has declared, "my speech is also not intended to inject Israel into the American partisan debate […]" In this regard, Netanyahu rejected an invitation from Democratic senators Dick Durbin and Dianne Feinstein to meet in a closed-door session with Democratic representatives during his visit because it "could compound the misperception of partisanship."
If the initiative were partisan, it would have consisted of pronouncing a speech in a Republican or Democratic close-door meeting or in a convention. On the contrary, it was in a joint session of Congress, where both major American parties were represented. It was a speech addressed to all American representatives, warning about a security issue for Israel, the U.S. and the Middle East: Iran must not get the capability to develop nuclear weapons. Thus, Netanyahu's speech did not break the bipartisan consensus on the Israel-U.S. special relation; his words before the representatives were aimed to warn about how pernicious it would be to let Iran be a nuclear-threshold state, and he was strongly clear: "The deal does not block Iran's path to the bomb. It paves Iran's path to the bomb."
Moreover, U.S. president Barack Obama dispelled any doubts by stating that the relationship between Israel and the U.S. is unbreakable -- just as Netanyahu has asserted during his tour, also adding that this relation is above politics. Indeed, the strategic and military cooperation between the two countries has never been stronger and it has to remain so in order to meet all the challenges that the Middle East is facing today, from Iranian nuclear proliferation to the Islamic State expansion. And, above all, this is not the first time that both governments have disagreed on major issues: They did during the Six-Day War (1967) and before and after Operation Opera (1981). Despite those disagreements, U.S.-Israel ties have remained indestructible.
Netanyahu's intentions, according to his words pronounced at the 2015 AIPAC Policy Conference, one day before his speech to Congress, were "to express Israel's serious concern about a potential nuclear deal with Iran, which would threaten [Israel's] survival." And that was what Netanyahu just did: To warn U.S. representatives about signing a bad deal with Iran, which would set it up to remain as a nuclear-threshold state with a strengthening economy-because of the sanctions relief-and without any guarantee of compliance of the deal's terms.
At the end of the day, the Israeli PM reminded Congress how dangerous a nuclear Iran can be for Israel and for the entire world. Along this line, The Atlantic journalist, Jeffrey Goldberg, who is known for being close to the Obama Administration, highlighted that Netanyahu has "a credible case to make." In Goldberg's words; "Any nuclear agreement that allows Iran to maintain a native uranium-enrichment capability is a dicey proposition; in fact, any agreement at all with an empire-building, Assad-sponsoring, Yemen-conquering, Israel-loathing, theocratic terror regime is a dicey proposition."
This danger is really palpable. According to the Friends of Israel Initiative Board Member Col. Richard Kemp, an agreement that leaves Iran with the potential to achieve nuclear breakout will trigger a Middle-East arms race that will exponentially increase the risks of global nuclear war, a risk multiplied by the vulnerability of regional governments to be overthrown by extremists. A bad deal would be perilous, not only for Israel, but also for other countries in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia, which will probably start a nuclear race in the region, and moderates such as Jordan. "If Iran wins, Israel and Jordan will find Iranian troops ensconced on their border," said former Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), who was chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (2011-15).
Concerns about a nuclear Iran is not only an Israeli issue, it is also a worrying matter for the U.S. and the entire world. This is an paramount point, also echoed by the editor-in-chief of Al-Arabiya News, Faisal Abbas, who praised Netanyahu's speech and wrote that, "In just a few words, Mr. Netanyahu managed to accurately summarize a clear and present danger, not just to Israel (which obviously is his concern), but to other U.S. allies in the region." In fact, the danger posed by a bad deal would spread also to the whole world, as the The Friends of Israel Initiative Chairman Jose Maria Aznar pointed out last November on The Wall Street Journal "the presence of a nuclear-armed Shiite Islamic Republic in an already unstable Middle East would have dire repercussions around the world. This is not the time to make more concessions, but the time to put more pressure on the ayatollahs."
The Friends of Israel Initiative has always claimed that a bad deal is worse than no deal, and the negotiations are leading to an agreement devoid of guarantees, which in turn enables Iran to get atomic bombs.
In sum, Netanyahu did not try to break the bipartisan consensus on Israel speaking before Congress; the Israeli PM just warned his strongest ally about the implications of reaching a bad deal with Iran and encouraged the U.S. not "to gamble with our future and with our children's future.".