Moving On Is Essential
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
While in many circles it is a given that the deal with Iran made by the P5+1 could have been better in some areas, it is also a given that in all likelihood the deal will go through. The question at this point, therefore, is what is being gained by the persistent Israeli campaign against the deal—at least in public? The resolution on the nuclear related questions appears to have followed much of what was expected and what Israel itself had helped to develop. Except for serious objections over other provisions—which were not the major focus of the discussions—it appears that Israel gains little and in fact causes great harm to the U.S.-Israel relationship in continuing to attack the Obama Administration. In addition, the Netanyahu approach is dividing the American Jewish community in ways which inevitably will work against Israel’s ability to generate strong advocacy for its needs in the months and years ahead.
Bibi clearly has decided to follow the strategy employed by the Republicans in Congress vis-à-vis Obama throughout his entire term in office. The GOP opposed the President on virtually all key issues—not the least of which on Obamacare–in an unconstructive and ad hominem attack. They did not seek to negotiate changes or adapt or modify or fix the law, only to repeal it or to litigate. As the matter has now been settled, other than ginning up their supporters, Republicans failed.
Netanyahu’s attack on White House and the Iran deal has followed the exact same operating theory, regardless of the correctness of many of his objections. As the Republican were not collegial, cooperative, and constructive, so too has Netanyahu opted to follow that style by ginning up his troops and forces—Republican in Congress who oppose the deal and those in the Jewish community prepared to follow whatever the Prime Minister of Israel says. The difference here is that this approach may well do great damage to Israel and its supporters in the future; even if, in the unlikely case, Congress blocks the deal.
For Israel and its supporters in the U.S. this must not be seen as a test of wills or an ego fight. Contaminating the U.S.-Israel relationship can cause serious problems as Israel tries to address the practical battles which need to be fought as Iran seeks to expand its role and hegemony in the region. If Israel hopes to fight the radical Islamists especially the Shiites; to continue and increase its mutually advantageous relationship with the Saudi led Sunni group; to obtain strong international support to insure an eventually secure border with Lebanon and Syria; and to continue a growing bi-lateral effort with Egypt to contain Hamas and the radical groups in Egypt and in Sinai, it will require considerable good will and support from Washington.
To date Netanyahu has done considerable damage to the U.S.-Israel relationship and especially to many pro-Israel supporters in the Democratic Party. Not only his speech last March but his apparently dismissive attitude to the widespread support that the Democratic Party has among most non-Orthodox Jews in America. This unfortunately could well come back to undermine the entire position of Israel in the U.S.