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March 4, 2015 12:05 pm

Opinion: The White House Must Respond to Netanyahu’s Important New Proposal

avatar by Alan Dershowitz

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Federal legislators applaud Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday. Photo: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO.

I was in the House gallery when Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a logical and compelling critique of the deal now on the table regarding Iran’s ambitions to obtain nuclear weapons. He laid out a new fact-based proposal that has shifted the burden of persuasion to the White House.

His new proposal is that “If the world powers are not prepared to insist that Iran change its behavior before a deal is signed, at the very least they should insist that Iran change its behavior before a deal expires.”  His argument is that without such a precondition, the ten-year sunset provision paves, rather than blocks, the way to an Iranian nuclear arsenal, even if Iran were to continue to export terrorism, to bully nations in the region and to call for the extermination of Israel.

With logic that seems unassailable, Netanyahu has said that the alternative to this bad deal is not war, but rather “a better deal that Israel and its neighbors might not like, but which we could live with, literally.” Netanyahu then outlined his condition for a better deal: namely that before the sun is allowed to set on prohibiting Iran from developing nuclear weapons, the mullahs must first meet three conditions: stop exporting terrorism, stop intruding in the affairs of other countries, and stop threatening the existence of Israel.

If the mullahs reject these three reasonable conditions, it will demonstrate that they have no real interest in joining the international community and abiding by its rules. If they accept these conditions, then the sunset provision will not kick in automatically but will require that Iran demonstrate a willingness to play by the rules, before the rules allow it to develop nuclear weapons.

Instead of attacking the messenger, as the White House has done, the Administration now has an obligation to engage with Netanyahu in the marketplace of ideas, rather than in a cacophony of name-calling, and to respond to Netanyahu’s argument on its merit. There may be persuasive responses, but we have not yet heard them.

The decision to accept or reject a deal with Iran over its nuclear weapons program may be the most important foreign policy issue of the 21st Century. Many members of Congress, perhaps most, agree with the Prime Minister of Israel, rather than with the President of the United States on this issue. Under our system of separation of powers, Congress is a fully co-equal branch of the government, and no major decision of the kind involved in this deal should be made over its opposition. Perhaps the President can persuade Congress to support this deal, but it must engage with, rather than ignore, our duly elected representatives of the people.

The Administration and its supporters, particularly those who boycotted the Prime Minister’s speech, focus on the so-called lack of protocol by which Netanyahu was invited by the Speaker of the House. Imagine, however, the same protocol for a speaker who favored rather than opposed the current deal. The White House and its supporters would be welcoming a Prime Minister who supported the President’s deal, as they did British Prime Minister David Cameron, when he was sent in to lobby the Senate in favor of the Administration’s position. So the protocol issue is largely a pretext. The Administration is upset more by the content of Netanyahu’s speech than by the manner in which he received the invitation.

This is too important an issue to get sidetracked by the formalities of protocol. The speech has now been given. It was a balanced speech that included praise for the President, for the Democrats, for Congress and for the American people. Prime Minister Netanyahu was at his diplomatic best. In my view, he was also at his substantive best in laying out the case against the Administration’s negotiating position with regard to Iran, especially the unconditional sunset provision.

The Administration must now answer one fundamental question: why would you allow the Iranian regime to develop nuclear weapons in ten years, if at that time they were still exporting terrorism, bullying their Arab neighbors and threatening to exterminate Israel? Why not, at the very least, condition any “sunset” provision on a change in the actions of this criminal regime? The answer may be that we can’t get them to agree to this condition. If that is the case then this is indeed a bad deal that is worse than no deal. It would be far better to increase economic sanctions and other pressures, rather than to end them in exchange for a mere postponement of Iran obtaining a nuclear arsenal.

There may be better answers, but the ball is now in Obama’s court to provide them, rather than to avoid answering Netanyahu’s reasonable questions by irrelevant answers about “protocol” and personal attacks on the messenger. Israel deserves better.  The world deserves better. The American people deserve better. And Congress deserves better.

An unconditional sunset provision is an invitation to an Iran that continues to export terrorism, bully neighbors and threaten Israel—but with a nuclear arsenal to terrorize the entire world. This would be “a game changer”, to quote President Obama’s words from several years ago, when he promised that he would never allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. Suddenly, “never” has become “soon.” Congress should insist that any provision allowing Iran to develop nuclear weapons after ten years must at the very least be conditioned on a significant change of behavior by the world’s most dangerous regime.

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  • Thank you for noting that President Obama is reneging on his famous “Make no mistake” speech to the General Assembly
    September 25, 2012. Below are the words from his speech:

    “Make no mistake: A nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained. It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy. It risks triggering a nuclear-arms race in the region, and the unraveling of the non-proliferation treaty. That’s why a coalition of countries is holding the Iranian government accountable. And that’s why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

    • Jack Tucker

      Obama’s policy is not to allow a nuclear armed Iraq. He said that cannot happen. The issue is whether Iran should be allowed to have nuclear power. That is not nuclear armaments. Iran would have to surrender the enough centrifuges not to be able to create a bomb for 10 years. What happens then? Not worked out yet. Ten years from now, a nuclear armed Iran would still be unacceptable. This just kicks the can down the road. Any better idea? Start a war? Refuse to stop Iran from getting a bomb by walking away from negotiations? Think you can keep them from having nuclear power if you negotiate better? You tell me?

  • Harvey chimerine

    I believe the president has an agenda that is in an alignment with the Arab world of which he is a member since berth and will do anything to bring down America before he is replaced. In 2016

    • Jack Tucker

      Excuse me. Iran s not part of the Arab world. And much, if not most Arab states are completely opposed to Iran’s getting a bomb, not because they might destroy Israel, but because they might try to impose their will on the Arabs. And because Iran is the state that sponsors terror against Sunnis that most Arabs hate. And because that would start a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that probably could not be contained or controlled and bring the world that much closer to nuclear annihilation.
      Obama knows all that and opposes Iran having the bomb. What do you think he should do about it. Refuse to make any deal? Start a war perhaps with nuclear weapons? You tell me.

  • In reaction to Netanyahu’s speech to Congress, President Obama said that the Israeli Prime Minister had said “nothing new”. And President Obama is right[!?].

    1- The Prime Minister quoted Moses, but President Obama knows these things because every US president places his hand on the Bible when he is sworn in as president.

    2- Bibi Netanyahu reminded us that in the Book of Esther it is written that Haman wished 2500 years ago to destroy all the Jews in the Persian Empire.
    But this the President also knew…

    3- Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke about the Holocaust of the Jewish people and noted the presence in the audience of Ellie Wiesel, one of the last survivors of European Jewry. But this was also not new to President Obama!

    4. The Israeli Prime Minister also compared the different technologies of the Sunnis of the Islamic State and of the Shiites of Iran. But these two groups have a common aim which is the expansion of their ideology. But this President Obama also knew…

    So we can understand why President Obama is angry because he cannot understand why the Israel Prime Minister came to address Congress about things which everyone knows!

    But one question remains: “Why does President Obama sit as a spectator and watch the growth and development of the terrorist state?”
    Is it for this that he received the Nobel Prize?

    Joseph Rosen
    Author of ‘Why a Jew?’


    The American people are not supporting the billboard liar Bibi….we know that Bibi was planning to attack Iran in 2014…flying over Iraq…the President threatened to shoot down those jets. Now Saudia Arabia the country who supposedly attacked the WTC, states they will allow Isarelie war machines to fly over them….if they do both SA and Israel will be surprised when all funding stops, and when their jets are shot out of the air. iran has no nukes, but Israel has thousands of them, all undeclared.
    There is NO Treaty between the US and Israel…zero none.


    americans do not respect that adled crzzy sex fiend Dershowitz.

  • Dr. Jesa Kreiner

    Have we already forgotten that the current Iranian regime does not abide by international obligations in dealing with embassies and diplomats. These are the same folks who have kept our diplomatic personnel over 400 days imprisoned and abused. These folks do not follow international norms of civilized behavior and cannot be trusted. The Reagan motto of “Trust and Verify” must be the only way in dealing with them. And if they will not comply with this it is better not to have any agreement with them!

  • Efram

    Obama does not do anything he does not want to do. There could be a nuclear attack on Washington and he might still restate his policy of ‘restraint,’ this modern day Nero.

  • steven L

    IL has three major enemies: “Communists”, the Socialists and the Islamists.
    Our president upbringing includes Islam, a communist mentor, several Islamists and his far left ilk (extreme Socialists)! This should at the least explain that.
    Shooting the messenger like the left/far left try to do is stupidly childish and we must wonder what kind of morons are these members of the congress. They are an INSULT to their own country.

  • Ilene Bloch-Levy

    The fact that Barack Obama, etal have gone on a major campaign to deal NOT with the content but rather the context, says more about this administration than it does about Bibi. It also makes me quite scared that individuals such as these are running the world.

  • bissel essen

    I agree with A.Dershowitz and thank you Jon Glickman, I agree with you also. Chris Mathews is starting to disappoint, in his short sightedness. Chris is afraid of war as is Obama, but aren’t we all. Sanctions and arming for defense and offense makes more sense. Iran’s global export of terrorism and other activities that are meant to subjugate and acquire more deadly power is their obvious intent. If they send over nukes, we should have hundreds of iron domes or better technology to defend us and I think we could blast them into kingdom come where they will have all those chaste women waiting to serve them in every way. Ahh, the path to true happiness.

  • zadimel

    Where are the 12 other comments?

  • George

    Obama’s entire presidency has been based on name calling and endeavoring to paint anyone who disagrees with him as one of about a half a dozen classifications that the liberals have painted in a negative light. Lets start with militant conservatives, or bible thumpers and homophobic. He endeavors to dismiss any view that is not his own.

    Well I guess I have a position as well. The reason he is so supportive of Iran and other Islamic nations is because he went to school in a Madras and Islam is his faith! He can’t give up his religion but he is allowed to lie to all non believers about his religious convictions. He wants this agreement as it would be about the only thing he could claim as his legacy. (See I destroyed the US from the inside with exec. orders.)

    He should be charged with and convicted of treason and hung by the neck until dead! Then he should lay in some morgue until he rots and as he wasn’t buried by sunset perhaps he won’t go to heaven and get his 72 virgins!

  • Dan Friedman

    Dershowitz needs to answer only one question: Was your endorsement of Obama TWICE a mistake?

  • Mr. Dershowitz:

    I concur with your assessment of Netanyahu’s historic speech. But if he is correct in discerning Iran’s ultimate intent, the preconditions Netanyahu laid out for an automatic sunset provision should instead be the precondition for a deal. Iran recognizes U.S. key ally Israel or there is no deal.

    The only way the U.S. could not view such a precondition as reasonable would be its conclusion that Israel is not in fact a key ally.

  • why does the algemienEr publish suck lies?
    dershowitz said : “The Administration must now answer one fundamental question: why would you allow the Iranian regime to develop nuclear weapons in ten years, if at that time they were still exporting terrorism, bullying their Arab neighbors and threatening to exterminate Israel?”

    that is a lie: iran will still need to be in full compliance with the the nuclear nonproliferation treaty after the ten years which means they will not be ALLOWED to make a bomb.

  • Sorry Alan, when Obama says jump, you say how high?…You proved it in Nov 2008 and Nov 2012..You will always be in Obama’s hip pocket…You a man without credibility on this issue..your blind support of the Community Organizer is who you are.

  • Seffie Segal

    ever been.





  • Seffie Segal

    I fail to understand professor Dershowitz. On one hand he supports Netanyahu ‘s demand that Iran changes its aggressive behaviour. On the other one he concedes of allowing Iran to go Nuke should it”behave itself”, as his punchline suggests:”Congress should insist that any provision allowing Iran to develop nuclear weapons after ten years must at the very least be conditioned on a significant change of behavior by the world’s most dangerous regime”.
    And I am asking: Should Iran genuinely comply, why should it ever need going Nuke in the first place? The proof is in the pudding: The very demand of the right to go Nuke implies that even if it acts as complying during the testing period (be it 10 or 20 years) Iran will renegade on its agreements when it assesses that conditions ripened, and being a dictatorship it is in a position to do so in a spur of a minute. The only way to prevent that from happening is a viable threat to destroy Iran’s nuclear project and the Mula’s regime if and when it resumes aggression of any kind. America’s problem here is the double whammy its present president handed it: Not only did he jettison the option of exerting such a threat but it also told the Iranians he did just that: He did it by openly claiming that allowing Iran to go Nuke sometime in the future is a better deal than attacking it in the present. Therefore it is Congresses duty to postpone any agreement to that point in the future when the US is again conceived to be the world’s policeman.
    Let us not forget that the present Iranian president was elected by merit of his spectacular past diplomatic achievement: Cheating on previous agreements with the Powers on the very same issue now on the table: change of behaviour.
    Professor Dershovitz praises Nethanyahu for his logic, the nutshell of which is that Iran can not be trusted whatsoever. Sadly enough his punchline contradicts nethanyahu’s logic,which leads one to wonder whether this contradiction stems from Professor Dershovitz’s attempt to accommodate the unaccommodated: His conception of what the interest of the US really is with his spectacular mistake of being that staunch supporter of President Obama he has ever been?

  • Jacobite

    President Obama states he see’s no good reason for not proceeding with his proposed talk’s and possible deal, after hearing the maticulous opinions of the suituation in regard to the potential of Iran to develope Atomic weaponry as layed out by Isreal’s leader Netanyahu, clearly Israel and it’s survival or even the USA and its security are not considered good reasons to obtain a better deal, this is simply an insult to all western country’s who are relying on him to get it right, because the outcome left to future leaders will be unspeakable horror should he get it wrong.
    A change in U.S. Leadership is desperately needed?

  • Jon Levinson

    I usually agree with you. However, this time I must take issue.

    I am concerned that if a deal is not signed and the coalition decides to play a waiting game with Iran, they will use the time to progress further in their aim to get a bomb and we will have no say if that becomes a fait accompli. Additionally , many of the main callers for military action are the same ones who led us into the Iraq war, a senator from Illinois opposed it at the time. I also believe that this whole ploy was electioneering by both Bibi and Boehner.
    All of the conditions Bibi proposed have no chyance of being part of a deal.

    • Edward l.

      Levinson you are a dummy like Obama, he dosn’t know which end of him is up.

    • rulierose

      you don’t get it. Iran has ALREADY been “using the time” of these negotiations to continue work on their nuclear program. Obama either misspoke or was once again lying when he said that we have “stopped their progress.”

      Iran’s position is that it should be able to have nukes and that nobody should tell it what to do. they were never going to stop enrichment, and the only reason they agreed to talks in the first place was the sanctions, which Obama helpfully removed.

      this president is either the most incompetent man who ever held the office, or he actively WANTS Iran to have a bomb. there is no third option.

  • Bro. Nick

    PM Benjamin Netanyahu clearly spoke the truth of the many dangers – not only to Israel, but also to ‘Amerika’ and all other countries – of the fundamental Mohammedan nuclear armed Iran.

    The continuing attitude and reaction to ‘the truth’ by
    Pres. Barack Hussein Obama II is – ‘Don’t confuse me with facts – I have my mind made up.’
    The ‘Separation of Powers Act’ has become a joke – because
    Pres. Obama is ruling ‘Amerika’ by ‘Executive Orders’ – when Congress or the Supreme Court does not do what he wants on ‘major issues’.

    “The WICKED walk on every side, when the VILEST men are exalted.”
    (Psalm 12:8 [KJB])

    “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice:
    but when the WICKED beareth rule, the people mourn.”
    (Proverbs 29:2 [KJB])

  • Barry

    An absolutely logical argument made by Mr. Dershowitz. It is so logical in fact, that it defies any sense of moral responsibility to not follow the terms he sets out.

    As he says, if a country is behaving in a manner that goes against the rules of nations, why in the world would you agree to let them have nuclear weapons in ten years.

    That the liberal press has come down hard on Netanyahu after such an excellent speech does not bear well for the future of America. We have lost our way with this government and it will be a hard and costly road back.

  • Ivan Gur-Arie

    Obama and his syncophants must realize that when Obama leaves office, it is the rest of us left holding the bag with a bad deal. Who told Obama that God died and left him in charge. To believe or pretend that you you know everything is the first indication that you know and appreciate nothing. Obama get off your hobby horse and act as an adult.

  • Yoel Nitzarim

    Mr. Dershowitz, I want to go one step farther into the muck and mire. If President Obama tries to ram his horrendous down the throats of the American people, Congress, Israel, and the Free World without anymore discussion and through a unilateral presidential declaration, then I aver he should be held in contempt and impeached for usurping the requisite protocol necessarily enforced by the Constitution of the United States concerning checks and balances between the three branches of government.

    • zadimel

      There Constitution is nothing in the US Constitution that requires the President to not “ram his horrendous” decision down their “throats.”

    • Efram

      Agreed. But congress will never act on behalf of the American people over the US’s primary jihadist.

    • Sonia Willats

      Thank you Prof. Dershowitz, Yoel Nitzarim too. I believe all reasonable people support Bibi’s impassioned (but not weak-kneed) plea for the protection of the one and only Jewish State, and the reasonable withholding of arms from what can only reasonably be termed a terrorist state – as Iran exports her terrorism to the borders of Israel, Yemen even to Somalia!

      How Obama has even dragged the leaders of Europe (including David Cameron – the big surprise) confounds the imagination!

      I am sure that the hearts of all reasonable men and women in the world today made every effort to watch the speech, and agreed whole-heartedly.

      I gather that Obama read the transcript afterwards, and only in order to find points to refute – on which he failed fully, as Bibi did indeed present alternatives, as you have so ably pointed out.

      My deep respect goes to Bibi for his love for his people and the State of Israel. I can only regard with contempt people like Buji Herzog who decried the defence of his own country within minutes of the speech being delivered. Sadly to say, he and Tsipi Livni are lackeys to foreigners who have no love for justice; reasonable concern at the horrors of nuclear holocaust.. Frankly they, and many of the leaders of Europe, defy the imagination in what seems to be a headlong rush to demolish sanctions and cow-tow to a wicked, terrorist regime. Such immediate pragmatism, at the cost of literally dear life in the future… There are no words.

      חסר לי מילים!

  • Jon Glickman

    Agreed and well said. This message should be delivered to Chris Matthews at Hardball, whose comments and coverage last night was atrocious. Thank you.

    • Martin Solomon

      What can be expected of Chris Matthews, the best friend of anti-Semite Pat Buchanan.

      • rulierose

        Pat Buchanan is the least of our worries. Buchanan is a tired old loner who’s completely out of step with the rest of the GOP. it is the lefties in the universities and the Democrat party and the Obama administration who are the anti-Israel people to watch these days.