Iran Sanction Talks Become Petty Politics!
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
The Obama White House has every right to be peeved at the behavior of House Speaker John Boehner announcing today that he has invited Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress one month before Israeli elections are to be held. Even the pretext of coming to share—in public no less—his Israeli Government’s perception of what ought to be the correct U.S. policy on whether to increase U.S. sanctions on the Iran at this time or not, is preposterous. The political transparency of this move on both sides is truly extraordinary; aside from the fact that direct or even indirect interference in the democratic election process of another country is embarrassing and not acceptable.
Relations between sovereign states are conducted at the Head of Government level. Neither the Congress nor the Knesset makes foreign policy although both do—each in their own way—advise and consent on foreign policy decisions. Congressional leaders as well as rank and file Members regularly visit and consult with foreign leaders and their legislative counterparts. Certainly, a public speech before a joint session of Congress will do nothing to enlighten the high level national security discussions which must underlie any U.S. decision concerning the status of U.S. negotiations with Iran. The Speaker is playing into the hands of those in the U.S. and in Israel who want to push the envelope for elevated sanctions against Iran. Indeed that may well be the correct policy choice, but blatantly employing the already—only too eager –Israel Prime Minister to batter the President and his negotiating team, is inserting a level of political gamesmanship into the midst of what is a genuinely difficult policy decision. It is also permitting Netanyahu to snub the America’s President.
As for Netanyahu, not only does he once again poke the Obama Administration in the eye with this circuitous, partisan maneuver, but he undermines any efforts which might have been evolving in the White House to try to improve the personal relations between Obama and Netanyahu, should Bibi be selected to lead a post-election new Government. The saddest part is that if Netanyahu (and Boehner) get away with this maneuver, and Netanyahu is selected as the new Prime Minister, then both Netanyahu and the Israeli people had better be prepared for an ice cold relationship with the Obama Administration until the conclusion of his presidency. In addition, any Democratic presidential nominee in 2016 will have this petty, personal dogfight to deal with as regards Israeli supporters in the United States as well vis-à-vis future U.S. policy towards Israel.