Editorial: Netanyahu’s speech underscores wider divide in relations


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Accompanying many of the articles about Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to Congress on Tuesday is an image of him pointing into the distance with fury. The tone of anger and condemnation is palpable from the picture alone.

A moment in which global diplomacy was hanging in the balance, Netanyahu’s speech was an embodiment of one of the worst U.S. president-Israeli prime minister relationships in history.

The Daily Iowan Editorial Board supports a plan that would not allow even the slightest chance for Iran to develop nuclear weapons. However, Netanyahu’s speech — in principle — may have been too much of an attempt to go over the head of President Obama, resulting in an undermining of U.S. bipartisanship.

Israel’s relationship with the world is inherently complex. In this environment, Netanyahu has one job — to protect Israel. Period.

Arguably, the most important aspect of that goal is maintaining a strong relationship with Israel’s greatest ally. The question lingers, however, if this speech put that relationship in jeopardy. Not in the sense that the alliance is tested (the U.S.-Israel alliance will never dwindle) but in the sense that once similar standpoints on terrorism will be tested.

In a brief reaction video from the president, the relationship between the two personalities seemed more at odds than ever. Scrutinizing Netanyahu for his speech, arguing that he merely presented the problem without a solution, Obama’s views were shared with dozens of congressmen and women who chose to skip the speech.

Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, was one of these individuals, according to The Daily Iowan.He argued — to little debate — that the speech became more about the politics than about the topic at hand (he was the only member of the Iowa congressional delegation to skip the speech).

Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., argued (on the side of Obama), according to Time, that the power of Netanyahu’s speech was overshadowed by the fact that he did not propose a deal — merely attempted to find problems with the proposed deal.

Obama has laid out his fear that Netanyahu’s non-plan prevents a plan of any kind from taking form. Conversely, Netanyahu’s speech focused on Obama’s plan allegedly leaving two major concessions: the first of which does not prevent and the second nearly promotes Iran’s nuclear proliferation.

In his speech, Netanyahu went as far as to say, “That’s why this deal is so bad … it doesn’t block Iran’s path to the bomb, it paves Iran’s path to the bomb,” and that, “This is a bad deal, it’s a very bad deal. We’re better off without it.”

The rhetoric of Netanyahu’s speech does not appear to avoid politics as much as the prime minister claims to desire.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said she was nearly in tears over Netanyahu’s insult and condescension toward American intelligence. Meanwhile, Netanyahu brought down the Republican house with such opening comments as, “Israel was protected from Hamas rockets … because this Capitol dome helped build our iron dome.”

The Editorial Board agrees with Netanyahu that the need for a new, stricter deal is obvious — that the proposed plan is too weak. However, the manner in which the prime minister chose to address this problem has broader political implications than the nuclear Iran deal. While he should not have been denied the opportunity to speak in the first place, Netanyahu’s speech placed even greater strain on the already limited bipartisan relationship in the United States and the diplomatic relationship between the two countries.

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