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February 1, 2015 7:27 pm

Opinion: Netanyahu Betrays What’s Best For Israel

avatar by Alon Ben-Meir

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tries talking to Democrats about his Congress speech to no avail. Photo: Cherie Cullen.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has been more vocal than any of his predecessors about the ‘looming Iranian danger,’ insisting that any agreement to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons will amount to nothing more than a technical pause. He has been rallying members of Congress to impose additional crippling sanctions on Iran, hoping that the mounting economic pressure will precipitate a regime change, or at a minimum, force the current regime to abandon its ambition to acquire nuclear weapons.

Netanyahu has convinced himself that President Obama’s ‘eagerness’ to strike a deal with Iran would leave Israel vulnerable, even though the President has forcefully and repeatedly made it clear that under no circumstances will he strike a deal that can remotely undermine Israel’s national security.

Netanyahu, with wide Republican support in Congress, contends that notwithstanding Iran’s change of tone, its apparent willingness to cooperate, and insistence that its nuclear program is peaceful, Iran is a wolf in sheep’s clothing determined to achieve its nuclear goal, however long that might take.

Tehran has already secured two principle demands: enriching uranium on its soil and limiting any new agreement to a number of years. From Netanyahu’s perspective, this is a recipe for disaster, as Iran would subsequently be free to pursue its nuclear weapon program.

Netanyahu maintains that even though Khamenei has repeatedly stated that he is against the building of nuclear weapons, Khamenei distinguishes between the possession of nuclear weapons and having the technology and materials to assemble one in short order, which amounts to the same thing.

The problem here is that Netanyahu does not believe that President Obama will demand an airtight longer-term agreement to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Even though the U.S. has kept Israel informed about the substance of the negotiations with Iran, Netanyahu spared no efforts to rally Congress to legislate a new set of sanctions that could only derail the negotiations.

Netanyahu’s acceptance of the invitation by House Speaker Boehner to address a joint session of Congress to rebut President Obama’s Iran strategy is misguided and terribly damaging to US and Israeli strategic interests.

For Netanyahu to ignore protocol and notify the White House only after he accepted the invitation and refused to rescind it, is a slap in the face of the President who has done more than any of his predecessors to safeguard Israel’s security.

Netanyahu has ignored every appeal from the media, leaders of Jewish organizations, Israel’s European friends, and many others to cancel his trip, if for no other reason but for Israel’s sake.

To be sure, Netanyahu has disgraced Israel and undermined its crucial relations with the most important ally that stood by it, rain or shine, and remains its ultimate defender.

Being that the U.S. has and continues to be the ultimate guarantor of Israel’s national security, it defies logic that the U.S. would allow any loopholes in a new long-term agreement that would in any way endanger Israel at a later date.

Netanyahu knows too well that should Iran violate the new agreement, and if it were determined that the use of force is necessary to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities, only the U.S. can undertake such an extreme measure.

Furthermore, even if Netanyahu loses his mind and decides to attack Iran on his own, the U.S. will still be dragged in because Israel does not have the military capability to embark on such an awesome undertaking without U.S. support, given the likely horrifying regional consequences.

By what logic does Netanyahu have the chutzpah to second-guess the U.S. and act in a reckless and appalling manner, which can only damage Israel’s sacred ties with the U.S. to score some political points at home, especially at election time?

Netanyahu knows better than most people that without the U.S.’ political, military, and economic support, Israel could not have existed, let alone become a regional powerhouse in all walks of life.

A responsible Israeli prime minister must work closely with the U.S. to produce an airtight deal and rally his allies in Congress to work toward that end, instead of trying to torpedo an agreement that could, at least potentially, eliminate the Iranian threat.

To begin with, the U.S. must make it clear that it will not hesitate to impose additional crippling sanctions with the full support of Congress if Iran continues to drag its feet. The agreement should include the following provisions:

Iran’s technical ability to construct a nuclear weapon must be curtailed by a significant reduction in the number of centrifuges, and restrictions must be placed on the installation of advanced ones.

Iran’s plutonium-production capability at Arak must permanently be disabled, and strict limits must be imposed on the quality and quantity of the production of enriched uranium.

The U.S. should insist that Iran end its research and development of its ballistic missile program, which could threaten Israel, and agree on the most unfettered, intrusive, and unannounced inspections regime.

The Mullahs must be persuaded that the U.S. is prepared to resort to the military option to stop Iran’s drive to become a nuclear state by remaining militarily vigilant throughout the Gulf. Finally, the agreement should be effective for at least 10 years.

Netanyahu must understand that the eventual normalization of relations between the U.S. and Iran is the best way by which to eliminate the Iranian threat. Therefore, if there is any chance, however small, that such an agreement will stand the test of time, it must be explored.

The alternative is leaving Iran free to redouble its effort to reach the nuclear threshold, forcing the U.S. to choose between the lesser of two evils: to contain Iran (which is costly, dangerous, and prone to instability), or attack its nuclear facilities, which will further destabilize the region and undermine rather than enhance Israel’s national security.

Notwithstanding the accolades Netanyahu may receive from the floor of Congress, he has betrayed what is best for Israel. The Israeli electorate must remember this as they cast their votes come election day.

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

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  • Piet-Hein

    I think the essential difference is Netanyahu’s (and most Israëlis’) principle that Israël will defend itself by itself, ultimately, whereas Ben-Meir’s principle seems to be that it is, ultimately, the US by which it is safeguarded. Netanyahu takes the most independent stance, seems to me the right one.

  • BH in Iowa

    Meanwhile the ‘anti-nukes’ Left’s silence on Iranian nukes is deafening. Where is the screaming? The demonstrations? Where are the professional protestors at?

    When Obama campaigned in 2008, nuclear disarmament was one of his primary issues – now he is actively guiding Iran toward the nuclear threshold.

    The peaceniks are suddenly silent when it is Iran that is preparing for war.

  • ben kramer

    Stick a finger in the president’s eye. Expect to pay a price.



      During the George Bush administration Representative Nancy Pelosi and Sen. John Kerry visited Assad in Syria and publicly gave him support. This was despite both of them being requested by the State Department not to do so, since such support undercut US policy.Many of us felt that their actions directly violated the Logan act.

      Joseph Biden visits Israel. A lower level Israeli (Jerusalem) bureaucracy announces one of many steps in authorizing housing in a section of Jerusalem. This is not the 1st step nor is it the last step in this lengthily bureaucratic process. The US State Department goes ballistic, publicly blaming Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu for this “slap in the face”. The same weekend the Palestinian Authority names a square after a bloody terrorist who is responsible for the murder of numerous Israeli schoolchildren. And yet not a peep out of Joe Biden. Not a peep out of the State Department. Where is the indignation of the Israeli left? Where is the indignation of American Jews? Where is the media criticism?

      Pres. Obama released key five Taliban terrorists in his swap for. Bowe Bergdahl. He did this without discussing this with or even notifying Congress… which is against the law… Where is the media criticism?

      Pres. Obama unilaterally reversed long-standing US policy relating to Cuba without discussing this with or even notifying Congress… Where is the media criticism?

      Pres. Obama insulted visiting head of state Prime Minister Netanyahu very publicly during a previous visit by Prime Minister Netanyahu to the White House. He did this by blindsiding Israel and the Prime Minister by announcing his “decision” about Israel’s future borders while Prime Minister Netanyahu was on the airplane on his way to Washington and then by leaving Prime Minister Netanyahu alone to “cool his heels” while the president went off to have dinner with his family. Where the indignation of Israel’s left-wing? Where is the indignation of American Jews? Where is the media criticism?

      Pres. Obama had “high level administration officials” call Prime Minister Netanyahu chicken shift and other such insults. Where is the indignation of Israel’s left-wing? Where is the indignation of American Jews? Where is the media criticism?

      THIS LATEST EPISODE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH VIOLATIONS OF PROTOCOL. The preliminary discussions for the visit started in October. The staff of the speaker of the house of representatives (as opposed to the staff of representative Bohner) includes both Democrats and Republicans. And as has been since published the White House did receive advance notice. The White House could have done exactly what they did with the president of Israel–talk about having scheduling conflicts and being unable to meet. This example just played out before our very eyes and only Washington insiders realized that the scenario of disrespect was created by the president’s political advisers within the White House.





      • Sara D

        I agree with you entirely.

        Further, the Israeli left and the US left, especially the Obama Administration, are playing politics. The only one who isn’t is PM Netanyahu who has consistently shown overwhelming concern for the existential threat of Iranian nukes without regard to the proximity of elections.


      Now, read this correction from The New York Time’s own website.

      Correction: January 30, 2015
      An earlier version of this article misstated when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel accepted Speaker John A. Boehner’s invitation to address Congress. He accepted after the administration had been informed of the invitation, not before.

      Of course, the truth is that the White House was never bypassed or circumvented. Netanyahu only accepted Speaker John Boehner’s invitation after he knew the White House had been informed and had a chance to object.

      And if the Obama White House had some objection and had actually communicated it to Netanyahu, do you think that just maybe, he might have made decision not to accept the speaking invitation?

      Instead, the Obama White House said nothing, and Netanyahu, whose country gets threatened with destruction by Iran about every other week decided to accept Boehner’s invitation to speak to congress and help provide an impetus for legislation on Iranian sanctions that’s in both Israel and America’s interest .

      This is not new. In 2011, Boehner sent a notice to the WH stating his intention to invite Netanyahu to speak before a joint session of Congress. The White House never responded and Boehner proceeded to extend the invitation to Netanyahu. Netanyahu accepted the invitation and spoke. The White House did not express any outrage in 2011.

      So there was a precedent set then, and no reason for Boehner or Netanyahu to assume there was any problem when the White House didn’t respond with any objections this time.

      The resulting outrage was manufactured to create a negative impression that Israel had somehow ‘disrespected’ an American president and your friends contributed to this transparent charade. Actually, the reality is that it really doesn’t matter what Netanyahu says or what Israel does.If it wasn’t this, President Obama would have set up something else, and there will certainly be more of this coming no matter who gets elected in March and no matter how many of Mahmoud Abbas’s demands Israel submits to.

  • JohnWV

    Iran has not invaded another country for hundreds of years. All the time, the Jews are “defending themselves” by invading neighboring countries: ISRAEL (Mideast Jewish terrorists through today’s “Israel Defense Force”) has preemptively invaded Palestine 1948, Syria 1951, Egypt 1956, Egypt 1967, Syria 1967, Jordan 1967, Lebanon 1978, Iraq 1981, Lebanon 1982, Lebanon 1986, Lebanon 2006, Palestine 2008 and now the already besieged State of Palestine 2014.


    How a professor at New York University can state firmly what Pres. Obama will and will not do is extreme arrogance when we in the White House don’t know.

    Prof. Ben-Meir writes “He has been rallying members of Congress to impose additional crippling sanctions on Iran”…that statement is completely false. Legislation sets the mechanics in place to reimpose sanctions should Iran fail to reach an agreement.

    Doesn’t Prof. Ben-Meir remember Pres. Obama’s firm redlines on Syria? Doesn’t he remember the international pledges to Israel that Hezbollah would not be permitted to rearm?

  • Benny Zable

    With all due respect i believe that the author of this article, must be in dream land, if he really thinks that Obama, really cares about the welfare of Israel,and Iran would not drop a nuclear bomb on Israel!!!!! the reality is the complete opposite. it is sad but true, Israel will have to act alone,and they must and will prevail

  • “…normalization of relations between the U.S. and Iran is the best way by which to eliminate the Iranian threat.”

    The best way to eliminate the Iranian nuclear threat is to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations. There is no chance a farcical agreement between America and Iran will stand the test of time. And the Israeli electorate knows what’s best for Israel.

  • Degel

    Dear Alon Ben-Meir,
    Please take time to read a feedback on your work!
    What’s a chutzpah to take this superior tone addressing the head of sovereign country!
    Who give you a right to talk like that?
    You are not a principle of a school, where President of Israel is a trouble making student!
    The very vocabulary of the article, with all those “loses his mind”, “disgraced Israel”, “undermined its crucial relations” unequivocally shows to the one,who needs temper management.
    “Netanyahu knows better than most people that without the U.S.’ political, military, and economic support, Israel could not have existed, let alone become a regional powerhouse in all walks of life.”
    May be it’s another way around: May be US’s political, military and economic power exist only under the condition to support Israel. As soon as Israel will be able to do it on her own, blessings that US has will be seized.
    Think about that!

  • Hill

    This guy may be a Dr of something but what? Probably the same thing as Indyk. Just as the Jews in Warsaw were up on the roof shovelling incendiary bombs singing England is with us and France is with us and we have Hitler in our arse in September 1939 and if they’re not dead then they are still waiting. If this guy as a Jew thinks that when the chips are down the Jews can trust this administration in the US to deal with Iran over Israel’s potential demise then think again. Look at what happened with supplies of ordinance during the last conflict, how Obama had Israel’s back and then extrapolate that. Its not a pretty picture.

  • Netanyahu received an invitation. He accepted. Almost end of story. Obama is out of line. In fact, he has been since the onset of his first term. Obama who refuses to condemn Islamic terrorism for what is — is not a Christian but an active Muslim who would see Israel swept into the sea and a footnote to a tragic history. No Israeli, no Jew outside of Israel can ever feel safe as long as Obama reigns over America. Unfortunately, it may take years before the Obama truth emerges, not withstanding a copy or verification of his birth certificate, who truly funded his education, what he has secretly promised to his benefactors. Unaccepted by his Arab Muslim brothers as one of their own, Obama will try and try again to undermine Netanyahu until Iran becomes a legitimate danger. Then the question will be not if, but when and against what country Iran will launch a nuclear attack. With Iran’s missles pointed towards the U.S., one would think Obama would come to his senses. Netanyahu’s appear before Congress comes at no better time.

  • Mickey Oberman

    Netanyahu is 100% correct.

    Ben-Meir is a typical American Democrat Obama follower.

  • BH in Iowa

    Lumish (who is no Conservative) preemptively destroys dhimmis like the professor on EoZ: