Haaretz’s Barak Ravid reports that Israel plans to destroy the recently completely Iran nuclear framework by pursuing two tracks. On the first, it will propose unrealistic and previously rejected demands for “improvement,” which allow opponents to slam the deal for its alleged flaws. Examples of this are Israeli “suggestions” that the plan include closing the Fordo research facility completely (something the Americans proposed to the Iranians, who summarily rejected it). Another example is the demand that a deal include recognition of Israel and that it compel Iran to end its support for Hezbollah, Syria, and any other regional power it currently supports.
The second, equally troubling track, is one lobbying for Congressional legislation intended to destroy any chance the nuclear deal can be finalized. Israel will put forth a full-court press for the Corker bill, which it hopes will place so many stumbling blocks in the way of finalizing an agreement, that it will die a slow and painful death. If Israel truly wanted to do that it should support Sen. Mark Kirk’s bill, which truly can kill the deal, but which has received no bipartisan support from Democrats. As an aside, Kirk just compared the deal to appeasement of the Nazis. But he added that Neville Chamberlain got more from Hitler than the U.S. got from Iran.
Netanyahu may not realize that the Corker legislation, especially after being amended, could pave the way to final approval of the deal by the entire Senate. If there is horsetrading for votes, as there always is, Democrats agreeing to approve Corker might actually guarantee later Republicans votes for a resolution approving the agreement. But even if this doesn’t happen and Corker passes, and prospects appear grim for Senate passage of a final deal, the U.S. could bring the deal to the UN Security Council for approval. There it would sail through since no one would oppose it: all the five powers included in the P5+1 are Security Council members. This would be one UNSC resolution that Obama wouldn’t veto on Israel’s behalf: what a change!
Then, the Senate could refuse to lift sanctions, but what good would they be if everyone else in the world was trading with Iran except us? Eventually, U.S. business interests would force the Senate to relent.
Gideon Levy noted a deeply troubling aspect of the second Israeli “track.” Can you imagine the U.S. government and wealthy Obama donors inveigling legislators in Germany, Britain or France to pass laws which would torpedo a major plank of the sitting president, chancellor or prime minister? Can you imagine these donors contributing millions of dollars to the campaign coffers of such lawmakers in an attempt to frustrate the designs of the ruling coalition? If Obama were supid enough to try this on David Cameron, Francois Hollande or Angela Merkel, they would give him a tongue-lashing. Then they’d proudly tell their own citizens how they’d stood up to outside foreign intervention in the affairs of their country. And the citizens would beam with pride in their independent leaders, who stood up to the American bully.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) April 8, 2015
For some reason, Americans aren’t as outraged as Levy would like them to be. Partly, this is because Obama is playing this game coolly and deliberately. He understands that if he overreacts it will offer the Israel Lobby an opening to exploit. He understands there’s a difference between scoring points and winning. He doesn’t want to win a skirmish or make a point or stand up for his honor, he wants a deal. To get it, he’s prepared to bide his time, suffer a few outrageous slings, and bask in the glory of final victory.
I’m not as alarmed as Levy is in his column. I don’t believe Obama is being played by Netanyahu (though not for lack of trying) or that the U.S. president is being made to look like a fool. On the contrary, the White House tweet above shows that it’s hoisting Bibi on his own petard. Clearly, the graphic is a jab at Bibi’s UN speech prop, which featured an Iranian bomb that came straight out of a Wile E. Coyote-Roadrunner cartoon.
True, for six years Obama stood by and allowed the Israeli prime minister to run roughshod over him. But when it comes to Iran, the president has made clear this is a red-line Bibi will not cross. Obama and Kerry outplayed Bibi in the process leading to the nuclear framework negotiated in Lausanne. They left him with no cards to play. In the coming months, they will continue to outmaneuver him until June 30th, when a final deal is expected.
That does not mean that I’m not deeply critical of Obama’s failures regarding an Israel-Palestine deal. These were egregious. But regarding the Iran nuclear deal, he’s pursuing the right tactics and strategy and I expect him to outsmart Bibi and leave him empty-handed at day’s end. Unfortunately, that will not lead to a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians. That’s a bridge too far for Obama and will be a stain on his legacy.