World Within Reach: Netanyahu

Kali Croke, co-news editor

On March 3, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a controversial speech in front of the U.S. Congress that deepened an already existing split between the Democrats and the Republicans on the topic of negotiations with Iran. The speech followed recent news that a possible nuclear agreement was brewing between President Obama and the Iranian government.

Obama outlined this agreement—yet to reach any sort of vote or publication— as a “test” of trustworthiness for Iran’s ability to aggregate nuclear warheads. The deal would allow Iran to continue stocking and enriching uranium as well as experience lifted U.S. and European Union sanctions so long as it stood to a 10-year probation on its nuclear program.

Iran’s position as an international powerhouse has long been a point of contention between the United States and its clearly established Israeli ally. But as Iran becomes increasingly strategic in the Middle East, it has been evident that Obama’s policy toward the popularly perceived dubious nation leans more positively than Netanyahu, would like to see.

Netanyahu’s motive for delivering a speech for joint Congress was multifaceted. Primarily it was an attempt at expressing discontent with the potential ramifications of such an agreement that could be seen as more lenient toward Iran’s nuclear program than it maybe should be. Many observed that Netanyahu alluded to Obama’s policy, though not addressing it directly.

The potential for the U.S. to strengthen its ties with Iran and release some of the strict sanctions has lead to immense paranoia that Iran will have increased means to augment their nuclear capabilities. Israel and Iran’s relationship has been historically unstable. Netanyahu expressed fear of Tehran’s “three tentacles of terror” on their shared border.

But for much of the involved international community, Netanyahu’s speech was seen as purely a strategic effort to garner support in his home country during Israel’s election season. Denouncing Israel’s primary enemy and attempting to remind nations of their tight allegiance with the United States could have been, in addition to genuine uneasiness regarding Iran, political propaganda.

Informal polls following the speech, however, showed that the standings between Netanyahu’s Likud party and his opposition were unchanged, with Netanyahu still falling behind the frontrunner representatives. It is speculated that if anything many Israeli citizens were angered by his presence at Congress, because it may have an adverse effect on U.S.-Israel relations.

While Netanyahu’s effects on Israel’s election are hard to verify, his speech clarified the divide between the two parties within Congress. Democrats remain skeptical over Netanyahu’s motives. Republicans have openly expressed that any deal made with Iran is not likely to last once Obama is no longer in office. Regardless of what comes out of the deal, however, what is certain is that Netanyahu brought Iran to the forefront of American politics.