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March 1, 2015 1:00 am

Taking the Long View

avatar by Yoram Ettinger

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Netanyahu, Obama meeting, Sept. 2014. Photo: GPO

The Iran-driven rift between Obama and Netanyahu is "unbridgeable," according to Yoram Ettinger. Photo: GPO

On June 7, 1981, on the eve of the June 30 Israeli election, Prime Minister Menachem Begin ordered the demolition of Iraq’s nuclear reactor, shortly before it was to become operational. In the short run, Begin was condemned and punished globally, accused of politicking and undermining US-Israel relations. However, in the long run Begin’s defiance dramatically enhanced Israel’s power projection, upgraded US-Israel strategic cooperation, and spared the US a nuclear confrontation in 1991.

Today, in 2015, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is being urged to cancel his planned address at the joint session of Congress next week — on the eve of the March 17 Israeli elections and the March 31 deadline for an agreement with Iran — lest it undermine US-Israel relations and fuel the rift between him and US President Barack Obama. Netanyahu is told that the president, and not Congress, possesses the authority to conclude or reject an agreement with Iran.

However, a Feb. 16 CNN poll documents a rift between Obama and the American people over foreign policy in general and the attitude toward Netanyahu in particular: 51:41 percent disapprove of Obama’s foreign policy; 43:25 percent think that it is appropriate for Netanyahu to address the joint session before the agreement deadline; and 47:32 percent oppose Obama’s handling of Netanyahu’s address. Meanwhile, the February Gallup poll reaffirms vast public support for Israel (70 percent), in sharp contrast to the lack of support for the Palestinian Authority (17 percent — similar to support for Iran, Syria and North Korea).

Moreover, the Iran-driven rift between Obama and Netanyahu is unbridgeable, as is the rift between Obama and the pro-US Arab regimes of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Oman, Qatar, Jordan and Egypt. The latter are deemed by Tehran’s ayatollahs as apostates doomed to oblivion; hence, the Iran-supported subversion and terrorism, which has systematically afflicted them. They are panicked by the prospect of a nuclear, apocalyptic, megalomaniacal Iran, which is already surging into Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, fueling global Islamic terrorism, triggering a potential avalanche that would replace pro-US Arab regimes with radical, pro-Iran, anti-US elements.

They oppose Obama’s policy of containing a nuclear Iran, and his eagerness to achieve an agreement, which would transform Iran into a nuclear threshold state, celebrating annually the “Death to America Day.” They are convinced that Iran’s nuclear infrastructure must be dismantled. They are aware of Iran’s rogue, anti-US, terrorist, subversive, anti-human rights and non-compliant track record, and therefore do not consider the ayatollahs credible partners for an agreement. They insist that “at this stage, we prefer a collapse of the diplomatic process to a bad deal.”

Notwithstanding Obama’s assurances, they are alarmed by his and Secretary of State John Kerry’s worldview and track record: “The world is less violent, healthier and more tolerant than it has ever been”; subordinating unilateral US military actions to multilateral initiatives; considering the UN a key playmaker of international relations; bringing rogue regimes to the table, not to submission; refusing to acknowledge Islamic/jihadist terrorism; claiming that economic and social grievances are the root cause of “violent extremism” (are Islamic State, al-Qaida, Hezbollah, Palestinian terrorists and Boko Haram looking for jobs?); abandoning Iran’s domestic opposition in 2009; betraying pro-US Hosni Mubarak; embracing the Muslim Brotherhood, the most organized Islamic terror organization; considering Syria’s Hafez and Bashar Assad (until 2011) to be constructive leaders; welcoming the Arab Tsunami as an Arab Spring transition toward democracy; the failed retreat from Iraq which bolstered Islamic terrorism and Iran’s imperialism; the failed military involvement in Libya, which has been transformed into a terrorist haven; declaring victory over al-Qaida and claiming that the war in Iraq was over; failing to fend off the Iranian surge in Yemen, which threatens Saudi Arabia and Oman as well as the free passage of oil tankers in the most critical straits of Bab al Mandeb and Hormuz; and more.

The November 2014 midterm election paved the road to a dramatic rift between Obama and Congress, the world’s most powerful legislature, which is a co-equal, co-determining branch of the US government in domestic, foreign and national security affairs.

The US Constitution provides Congress with the power to shape foreign policy and to constrain presidential actions. Congress stopped the US military involvement in Vietnam, Angola and Nicaragua; prevented the supply of AWACs to Iran in 1977; brought down the white regime in South Africa; is still refusing to ratify the 1999 comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; overhauled the US intelligence agencies; coerced Moscow to allow free emigration; forced Obama to veto a February 2011 UN Security Council condemnation of Israel; forced Obama on Aug. 1, during the war in Gaza, to sign a $225 million appropriation for the acquisition of Iron Dome batteries; and more.

Netanyahu’s address to Congress — which has the muscle to forge policy on Iran — is driven not by political bickering but rather by clear, present and lethal threats to the US, its Arab allies, Israel and Western democracies. Its timing is determined by the March 31 deadline for an agreement with Iran, not by the March 17 Israeli election. Just like Begin, Netanyahu’s defiance of short-term political convenience will spare the US, Israel and the free world long-term disasters.

This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.

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