Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
While Netanyahu has every right to believe his analysis of the Iran agreement is correct and defeating it is/was the correct strategy, nevertheless it seems evident that continuing to champion a confrontational approach with the Obama Administration is not only foolhardy but dangerous for Israel. The error in this thinking is clear as the votes to prevent an override of an Obama veto are already in place with a growing possibility that a filibuster blocking vote may also be likely. It would seem reasonable, therefore, for the Israeli leadership and its American supporters—both Jewish and not—to move on; as only Iranian over-aggressiveness and diplomatic impatience seem likely to still void the deal.
Netanyahu ought to be approaching the immediate days and weeks ahead as an opportunity to downplay the confrontation and prepare to meet the President—maybe even during the forthcoming U.N. General Assembly session later this month. There is clearly much that can be done to work out constructive oversight and constraint mechanisms on the possible mischief that Iran may initiate with the billions which will flow into its coffers once the sanctions are lifted and significant renewed investment gets underway. There needs to be a shift in strategy in Jerusalem towards the Administration, regardless of how angry Netanyahu remains with the President and the deal.
There are unfortunately signs developing that Bibi will recommend and/or support a set of initiatives to impact the deal even after it is approved. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Republican Bob Corker has already announced he will consider legislation to reinstate U.S. sanctions or impose new ones or not to let the current ones expire. There are also maneuvers to load the Defense Authorization bill, coming up shortly, with additional Israel aid including the latest bunker buster bombs, plus a resolution supporting use of U.S. of military force in the region. Democratic Senator Robert Menendez has joined with Republican Senator Kirk already in co-sponsoring legislation to prevent the sanctions from expiring in 2016; forcing Congress to vote on the matter in the midst of its re-election campaign.
While not exclusively–although largely–a Republican strategy, it does reflect an attitude towards governing that now permeates Capitol Hill. No one wants to accept the fact that one does not win every fight; but governing is about winning or losing and then moving on. Fix the mess and do not keep fighting the same battles.
This confrontational strategy was evident last March when Netanyahu went into the trenches in his speech to Congress. He has fought the fight and he has lost. Israel needs him to work to improve the agreement and not pick more petty fights with the President and with the Democrats on the Hill. Bibi being petulant and unconstructive. Netanyahu needs to engage in damage control because Obama is still the President for 17 months and Bibi is only sure of three more years himself. The relationship between the U.S. and Israel needs to be repaired poste haste; regardless of which leader one supports or believes is to blame. Israel’s safety and security for sure need the relationship repaired.