What did Bibis speech accomplish: Poke-in-the-eye move blinds Netanyahu to the fallout

Two Views: For those willing to listen, PM nailed truth on Iran

If you’re keeping score on the prime minister’s ego trip to Washington this week, it reads Boehner 2, Ayatollahs 2, Bibi 1, Israel 0.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), with the help of Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, concocted this pre-Purim megillah in which a transparent curtain of policy was drawn to conceal some knuckleheaded election politics.

Boehner was the big winner. He succeeded where other Republicans have failed for many years, driving a wedge between congressional Democrats and Israel on an issue that had long been a bipartisan consensus in American politics.

It was a twofer for the speaker. Making his announcement of the unprecedented and secret invitation the day after President Obama’s State of the Union address, it was another expression of his unconcealed contempt for this president. As he poked Obama in one eye, his pal Bibi poked the other.

Lots of Republicans are also very happy because they think Bibi, the self-proclaimed leader of all the world’s Jews, is the Moses who will lead a Jewish exodus to the GOP. Of course, it won’t happen, and for a plethora of reasons unrelated to Israel.

Boehner has got to be something of a hero in the Arab world. With Bibi’s help they’re turning Israel from a bipartisan consensus in Washington into a partisan wedge issue. No Arab or Iranian or anti-Semite has been able to do as much damage to U.S.-Israel relations as these two.

The trip was packaged like a political campaign event, which is exactly what it was.

Just before flying to Washington on what he called a “historic” mission on behalf of the Jewish people, Netanyahu went to the Western Wall in Jerusalem for a photo op. While there and later in Washington, he declared his “respect” for President Obama. Amazingly, he wasn’t struck by lightning.

The Israeli leader came here because he was well aware that any politician gets more to the myth of moderation being pushed by the White House.

On a philosophical level, Netanyahu also underlined that the notion of trust in international relations does not have a one-size-fits-all meaning. Light years separate the trust that defines American relations with Canada from American relations with Iran. In our bilateral relations with Canada, we begin from an assumption of trust, whereas with Iran, we begin — or, at least, we used to — from an assumption of deep, empirically verifiable suspicion that stretches all the way back to 1979, when the newly established Islamist regime’s thugs seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

Netanyahu made two other strategic points that are worth highlighting. The first concerns the fight against the terrorists of Islamic State and how that impacts negotiations with Iran. The strikes against Islamic State reluctantly launched by the Obama administration, after thousands of Christians and Yazidis had already been massacred or enslaved, should not mean a de facto alliance with Iran, and should not encourage the belief that a region dominated by Iran is preferable to a region dominated by Sunni jihadis. Yes, there are different schools of Islamism that compete, often violently, with each other, but the foundational worldview stretches across sectarian and theological divides: hatred of America, hatred of Israel and the conviction that Jewish power is the ultimate enemy are what connects the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood with the Shi’a Basij militia, regardless of whatever else separates them.

The second point is that Netanyahu did not come to Washington with a call to wage war on Iran, despite the signs being brandished outside the AIPAC convention by anti-Israel demonstrators, who were at their most insane and vicious level this year. In fact, you might even argue that what was historic about his speech was that we saw an Israeli leader calling for a negotiated deal with Iran; just not the one currently on the table. And this would be a deal that would compel the Iranians to stick by their declared objective of having a nuclear program for civilian purposes only. What that means is proper and unfettered monitoring, the complete unveiling of further clandestine facilities, and appropriate measures to prevent a nuclear weapons breakout — whether now, 10 years from now, or a hundred years from now.

That is the only deal that makes sense for the Arab states, for Israel, for Europe, for the U.S. and for the West in general.

If we don’t reach a deal, then we will go back to a tough sanctions regime against Tehran. If that happens, our strategy should not simply be to isolate Iran. Those sanctions should be part of a package that will encourage and enable the Iranian people to repeat their heroism of 2009, rising up against this hated regime and, this time, overthrowing it.

That would be the best deal of all.

Douglas M. Bloomfield is the president of Bloomfield Associates Inc., a Washington, D.C., lobbying and consulting firm. He is the former legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.


Douglas M. Bloomfield

Douglas M. Bloomfield is the president of Bloomfield Associates Inc., a Washington, D.C., lobbying and consulting firm. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.