Today, March 3, “Bibi” Netanyahu delivered quite an emotional address to a Joint Session of the U.S. Congress. The problem, however, was that it was merely a re-packaged version of the same message–condemning Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons–that Mr. Netanyahu has been sending for several years. In fact, the Prime Minister offered basically the same content during each of his past two addresses to the U.N. General Assembly; however, this time he gave it with much more gusto.
It truly was a great speech; however, the question of its timing is where my hang-up is. This Tuesday is just two weeks before he stands for re-election back home in Israel, and three weeks before the six nation interim agreement is expected to be signed with Iran. So, his collaboration with House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), especially with regard to the timing of the speech, seemed more out of spite, and with little concern for any potential political ramifications.
The bi-partisan relationship between Israel and the U.S. is one of each country’s very most important ones. Our respective leaders, at every level, are in touch with one another on a continual basis. Secretary of State John Kerry advised Congress recently that he had spoken to Prime Minister Netanyahu just this past Saturday. So, both nations recognize the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran, and each knows the other’s preferred strategy.
The timing of the speech raises two important points: is this an attempt by the Prime Minister to influence his own bid for re-election back home; and, might the speech–which is certainly being watched in Tehran–interfere with the on-going negations with that country? Just because Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama have two different approaches to the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran doesn’t justify Bibi’s going public–at this time, on our soil.
The Prime Minister’s impassioned plea, on behalf of his beloved nation, was truly a wonderful speech. And, few Americans would question the importance of Israel’s security, or the danger of an Iran that was armed with nuclear weapons. Due to the timing, however, his appearance before Congress may very well come back to haunt him in Israel’s polls.
Aside from the inappropriate invitation that was extended by Speaker Boehner, all of Israel will surely know Bibi’s political intentions, again in the timing. Besides, Israeli’s will notice the absence of Vice President Joe Biden sitting behind their Prime Minister, and with two Republicans sitting behind him. Will potentially harming Israeli-American relations be worth the risk?