Should Prime Minister Netanyahu give his planned speech to Congress?
It is important to first acknowledge how far we have come in limiting Iran economically. The Iranian currency has plummeted, their exports and GDP have suffered, and their currency reserves are dangerously close to default. Congress deserves credit, but so does the Obama administration. This president embraced the Iran sanctions legislation passed during his first term in office, and worked with other countries to make it effective. No other president has enforced sanctions against Iran as competently as Obama. By contrast, during the eight-year presidency of George W. Bush, despite his well-known affection for Israel, not a single Iran sanctions bill even got to the floor for a vote.
Iran is an expansionist terrorist state, with proxies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. Even economically crippled, they are advancing their WMD program and have managed to support the wars in Syria and Yemen. A faulty agreement with Iran would undo all our hard work and likely result in even more aggressive behavior throughout the region.
Since the P5+1 negotiations (the United States, China, Russia, Britain, and France plus Germany) with Iran began about two years ago, the Obama administration has taken great pains to squelch any opposition to their sole jurisdiction and management of these negotiations. They have chastised members of Congress supporting additional sanctions, accusing them of pushing America to war.
Of course, the opposite is true. If the negotiations are again progressing after almost two years of Iranian stalling, it is because a more damaging Iran sanctions bill just passed the Senate Banking Committee 18-4. Similarly to excluding Congress, the administration has largely shut Israel out of the negotiations process.
We implore the leaders in Washington to remember the stakes. Iran has stated its goal — the destruction of America and Israel — repeatedly and in certain terms. For Israel the threat is more palpable. With just one bomb, Iran can do to the Jews in 12 minutes what Hitler did in 12 years. The most devoted and knowledgeable strategists on this issue are our Israeli counterparts who understand that only a zero enrichment agreement is verifiable.
The P5+1 negotiations with Iran are scheduled to produce a political agreement similar to a letter of intent on March 24. This is why Prime Minister Netanyahu believes he must speak out now against the dangers of a faulty agreement. Rescheduling this after the Israeli election will be too late.
We believe it would improve the outcome for Obama to be inclusive, so that the Israeli leadership can have more input into the agreement. The House Speaker’s invitation for Netanyahu’s address to Congress and timing close to the Israeli election may break typical protocol, but there are life-threatening issues at hand.
It is heartbreaking that some members of Congress, with whom the pro-Israel community has had deep friendships throughout their lives, have announced their intention to miss the prime minister’s speech. We encourage all members of Congress to attend and for the president to reconsider meeting with the prime minister.
By meeting now with Netanyahu, Obama will elevate the president’s office and enhance the administration’s bargaining position with Iran.
Netanyahu’s upcoming address to Congress is not about insulting the honorable president, which no Israeli leader would gratuitously do. It is about a desperate Israel trying to save itself and the world from Iranian terror and its messianic ambitions. The Israeli prime minister will travel 6,000 miles to be heard, and the March 2 P5+1 negotiations deadline with Iran makes this timing of the essence. We would ask the president and all members of Congress to take a few minutes to show solidarity with our trusted ally in this perilous time.