A few weeks ago, (Republican) Speaker of the House John Boehner announced that he had invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to deliver a speech about the Iranian nuclear threat to a Joint Session of Congress, currently slated to take place on March 3, 2015. The “fuming” White House immediately objected, calling the speech “inappropriate” – after all, it is scheduled for a few weeks before the Israeli elections [and the March 31 deadline to agree to the general terms of a proposed nuclear treaty with the Iranian regime]. Speaking before Congress, they complained, could unfairly influence the Israeli electorate, who may – Gd forbid! – reelect Bibi to another term in the Knesset. Another Bibi term will likely be the final nail in the coffin of President Obama’s obsessive pursuit of “Peace” between the Palestinians and the Israelis (the cause of all conflict in the Middle East). A tough pill for a lame duck President who is desperate to solidify a foreign policy legacy – aside from the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, bequeathing a period of unprecedented peace and tranquility – uh hum – to those countries.
The ADL, and other major Jewish organizations, immediately rushed to the President’s defense. “Don’t play partisan politics with Israel!” Afterall, it was a Republican Speaker who invited Bibi without the requisite approval from the White House. #StopTheSpeech trended on Twitter. Vice President Biden announced he will not attend the speech. He will be somewhere else. Where? Anywhere but Washington DC. TBD. President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry will not meet with Bibi, either.
Democratic politicians quietly complain of the uncomfortable position they are in, having to choose between their Democrat President, and the Prime Minister of Israel.
My original reaction to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s insistence on speaking at the Joint Session was to be against it. The narrative of the “danger of playing partisan politics with Israel” is one I agree with. Israel has garnered bipartisan support from Congress for most of its 68 year history. And we must protect that close relationship – hence, my original opposition to the timing of the Prime Minister’s speech.
And then Obama spoke. And my opinion changed.
Recently, the blogosphere lit up with the President’s insistence that the Parisian deli attack was “random.” That it was not motivated by anti-Semitism. It was not an intentional target by Islamic terrorists. It was merely a random attack, on a bunch of random people who “happen” to be in a kosher deli. Israel is a safe haven for Jews; in many minds, Jewish victimhood creates the need for Israel. If there are no Jewish victims, Israel – and its weakening by territorial concessions to the Palestinians – is less necessary.
It then occurred to me that Bibi’s insistence on speaking is not playing partisan politics with the US-Israel relationship. Rather, it is a necessary confrontation against this President’s flawed world view, specifically when it comes to the War on Terror and rogue regimes (e.g. Iran). We are in the midst of a global confrontation against an enemy that presents in many forms: ISIS, Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and, yes, Iran. The common denominator? The terror perpetrated by these groups is motivated by fundamentalist Islam. And President Obama refuses to acknowledge this threat or identify the enemy.
President Obama’s strategic response to the speech was brilliant. He successfully flipped the conversation by trying to turn Israel into a partisan issue: if Democrats attend the speech, they will upend the Democrat President. And so they must choose between principle (a strengthened US-Israel relationship in this war against evil) or politics (strengthening the President against a “disrespectful” Prime Minister).