How the Iran Deal Will Pass—and Why It Should – By Fred Kaplan AUG. 27 2015

Benjamin Netanyahu should have held his tongue. Above, the Israeli prime minister speaks during a press conference on Nov. 18, 2014, in Jerusalem. Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images

Benjamin Netanyahu should have held his tongue. Above, the Israeli prime minister speaks during a press conference on Nov. 18, 2014, in Jerusalem.
Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images

It’s looking more and more like Benjamin Netanyahu committed a strategic blunder in so ferociously opposing the Iran nuclear deal and in rallying his American allies to spend all their resources on a campaign to kill the deal in Congress.

If current trends hold, the Israeli prime minister and his stateside lobbyists—mainly AIPAC—are set to lose this fight. It’s politically risky for Israel’s head of state to go up against the president of his only big ally and benefactor; it’s catastrophic to do so and come away with nothing. Similarly, it’s a huge defeat for AIPAC, whose power derives from an image of invincibility. American politicians and donors might get the idea that the group isn’t so invincible after all, that they can defy its wishes, now and then, without great risk.

It would have been better for Netanyahu—and for Israel—had he maybe grumbled about the Iran deal but not opposed it outright, let alone so brazenly. He could have pried many more favors from Obama in exchange for his scowl-faced neutrality. Not that Obama, or any other American president, will cut Israel off; but relations will remain more strained, and requests for other favors (for more or bigger weapons, or for certain votes in international forums) will be scrutinized more warily, than they would have been.

If the House and Senate do vote down the deal next month, Obama will impose a veto. To override the veto, his opponents would need to muster a two-thirds majority in both chambers of Congress. As even many of these opponents admit, they are unlikely to do so. There is even a fair chance that they’ll fall short of the 60 votes needed to block the threat of a Democratic filibuster.

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Netanyahu arrives in US for contested Congress Iran speech – BBC News 1 March 2015 Last updated at 19:11 ET

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has arrived in the US to argue against a possible nuclear deal with Iran.

Benjamin Netanyahu will not meet President Obama during his visit, as Serena Chaudhry reports
Benjamin Netanyahu will not meet President Obama during his visit, as Serena Chaudhry reports

Mr Netanyahu says the deal would be inadequate to prevent Tehran from acquiring a nuclear bomb.

He is due to give a speech in Congress on Tuesday which was not agreed in advance with the Obama administration, angering the White House.

The speech comes two weeks before Israeli elections, with his Likud party under pressure in domestic polls.

The US and other powers – the so-called P5+1 – are negotiating with Iran on its nuclear programme.

They want a framework agreement by the end of the month which addresses concerns that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons technology, something Tehran denies.

‘Political football’

Before getting on the plane for Washington, Mr Netanyahu described his trip as a “fateful and even historic mission”.

“I feel deep and genuine concern for the security of all the people of Israel,” he said. “I will do everything in my ability to secure our future.”

Mr Netanyahu was invited to speak in Congress by Republican leaders.

But the BBC’s Barbara Plett Usher in Washington says the move has angered Democrats, some of whom feel forced to choose between Mr Obama and their desire not to upset Israel.

Several Democratic members of Congress including Vice-President Joe Biden have said they will not attend the speech.

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Barack Obama will not meet Benjamin Netanyahu in March – BBC News 22 January 2015 Last updated at 13:15 ET

Barack Obama will not meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he visits in March to speak to Congress, the White House says.

US President Barack Obama (R) talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside the White House march 2012

Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama (seen here in 2012) have not seen eye to eye

Spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan cited a “long-standing practice” of not meeting heads of state close to elections, which Israel will hold in mid-March.

Mr Netanyahu was invited by House Speaker John Boehner in what is seen as a rebuke to Mr Obama’s Iran policy.

The US president has said he will veto attempts to add new sanctions on Iran.

Mr Obama believes new measures will be harmful to negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme, talks Mr Netanyahu has opposed.

The Israeli prime minister has warned a deal between Iran and the US will pose a threat to Israel.

On Thursday, Mr Netanyahu formally accepted the invitation from senior Republican Mr Boehner, saying it will give him the chance to “thank President Barack Obama, Congress and the American people for their support of Israel”

Analysis: Nick Bryant, BBC News, Washington

“A full blown crisis” was how Jeffrey Goldberg, one of America’s leading Middle East commentators, described relations between the US and Israel last October, in an article that famously quoted a senior Obama administration official describing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a most unflattering, ornithological manner.

Since then, relations have deteriorated still further. The news this week that Netanyahu had accepted an invitation from the Republican House Speaker John Boehner to address a joint session of Congress – essentially to deliver a rebuttal to the president’s pledge to veto any new congressional sanctions against Iran – blindsided the White House.

They complained that it was a “breach of protocol.” In announcing that the prime minister will not get to meet the president, the Obama administration is invoking diplomatic protocol again.

But this will be widely interpreted as a snub, and make a difficult relationship even more acrimonious.

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Paris march: Global leaders join ‘unprecedented’ rally in largest demonstration in history of France – JOHN LICHFIELD PARIS Sunday 11 January 2015

Over 5,000 police and soldiers deployed as part of security measures for the demonstration

They came in their hundreds of thousands: the old and the young, the white, the brown and the black; the left and  the right. There were old men in berets; young black people in baseball hats; Jewish people in yarmulkes; Muslims in headscarves. At least 1.5 million people were estimated to have marched – or in many cases failed to march because the crowds were too densely packed – in the centre of Paris today. They marched “for the Republic”, “against hatred” and  “for history”.

Another two million marched in more than 60 similar demonstrations in towns and cities across the country. They marched to say “I am Charlie” but also “I am Jewish” and “I am a policeman” after three days of terrorist mayhem starting with the massacre at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo last Wednesday.

And as if that were not remarkable enough, there was an unprecedented march of the powerful within the “march of the one and a half million”. Forty-four world leaders linked arms and walked down the Boulevard Voltaire, pausing for a minute’s silence and then again when the names of the 17 victims were broadcast over a loudspeaker. The victims were listed alphabetically, anarchist cartoonists, Jewish supermarket shoppers and police officers all mixed up together.

In pictures: Charlie Hebdo Demonstration, Paris

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  • Charlie Hebdo Demonstration, Paris


Who would have thought that the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, would walk through Paris four places away from Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority? Who would have imagined the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, would take part in a street demonstration in the French capital (probably the first time that Cameron has demonstrated in his life)?

“Today, Paris is the capital of the world,” said President François Hollande. “Our entire country will rise up towards something better.”

Read more:
Politicians who repress freedom of speech join rally
French Israelis urge relations to emigrate to escape anti-Semitism
Comment: Far too many Western Muslims speak of freedom as a sin

Many people in the crowd also had a sense that something special was happening. France is a land where politics happens on the street but this was something unheard of: a demonstration for the values of the French Republic and Western democracy. The last time Paris had seen such a vast and varied crowd on its streets was on the night that France won the World Cup in 1998. That was an explosion of spontaneous joy. This was a shout of defiance.

“The whole of Paris seems to be here,” said Michel, 46, an estate agent. “I can’t describe the mood. There is a feeling of anger and determination but also relief at being able to express our feelings after three days of shock after shock. People will say it’s just a passing thing but I think something important is happening here today. France will not be the same after today.”

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Israel and Jordan: The Middle East’s Odd Couple – By Teresa Welsh Nov. 14, 2014 | 10:29 a.m. EST

The U.S. hopes to regain regional stability by boosting ties between the two allies amid ongoing violence.

Jordanian demonstrators shout anti-Israel and -U.S. slogans during a rally to support Jordan and Palestine, rejecting the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace talks, in Amman, Jordan, Friday, March 28, 2014.

Jordanian demonstrators shout anti-Israel and -U.S. slogans during a rally to support Jordan and Palestine, rejecting the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace talks, in Amman, Jordan, Friday, March 28, 2014.

In a region characterized by conflict, two countries – Israel and Jordan – have found themselves in a rare partnership to safeguard security and strategic interests and become one another’s most important regional allies in a perpetually volatile Middle East. Yet even though a secure Israel is in Jordan’s interest, that country doesn’t have the diplomatic heft to take the leading role in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks previously assumed by Egypt.

In an attempt to keep the increasingly important relationship stable, Secretary of State John Kerry met Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordanian King Abdullah II in Amman, Jordan to discuss ways to quell the recent widespread violence in Israel between Jews and Palestinians. Despite the close physical proximity of the two capitals, Netanyahu and Abdullah don’t meet frequently in person.

[READ: Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu Faces Tough Politics at Home]

Jordan, a moderate Arab nation and staunch Israeli ally, signaled its displeasure with recent Israeli action by withdrawing its ambassador last week over disagreements at a holy site in Jerusalem claimed by both Jews and Muslims. Jordan acts as caretaker for the site, home to Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock, as a part of a peace agreement signed with Israel in 1994.

“There was speculation that [the withdrawl] would lead to severing of Jordanian-Israeli peace agreement. I don’t think we were anywhere near that,” Neri Zilber, a visiting scholar at the Washington Institute, says from Jerusalem. “But if the situation had escalated in Jerusalem, Jordan, along with many other Arab states, would have taken a much stronger position against Israel.”

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Commentary: Actions and Intentions in Gaza – David Bromwich Posted: 08/02/2014 8:13 pm EDT Updated: 08/03/2014 1:59 pm EDT

People tell us what they mean by what they do. Actions of a certain consistency are the infallible clue to the motives that drive them. A sincerely meant declaration may sometimes prove false, but that is a rare phenomenon; generally, over time, the “exceptional” lie is found to be no exception, and what we took for an accident proves to be a regular trait of character. When we discover that the contradiction between word and deed is incorrigible, in someone we have to deal with, the reason is always that person’s wish to deceive; though this may include a wish to deceive himself. The work of an analyst of human conduct, a novelist or a psychologist or a historian, lies simply in recognizing the presence of a pattern. How do the actions hang together?

David Bromwich Headshot

The same holds true for countries. One must ask, What explains the pattern of the conduct? If someone said today, “The United States is at war with Islam,” it might be an uphill argument to respond that this is not really the American intention, that we have waged war in a small number of Muslim countries compared with the number in which we have not waged war, and so on. Still, the proposition that we are not at war with Islam could be defended rationally. By contrast, if someone were to assert that “The guiding purpose of the US in the Middle East since 2002 has been to bring democracy to the region,” that proposition would be impossible to defend. Too many of our actions refute it. The actions do hang together, and they suggest a different description of our purpose. Surely that purpose has been to exhibit the power of American arms in the region — “force projection.” Our encouragement of democracy has been erratic, compromised, discontinuous, and subject to very frequent deflection by tactical considerations on our side; whereas from Bush to Obama, from the siege of Fallujah to the drone killings in the borderlands of Pakistan, the commitment to force projection has never waned.

Suppose we compare in a similar spirit the Israeli government’s description of its aims in Gaza and the actions and effects of the past 25 days. To perceive the relevant pattern, we should recall some figures from Israel’s earlier Gaza offensive of December 2008 and January 2009. In that previous mission by the Israel Defense Forces, approximately 1300 residents of Gaza were killed, more than half of them civilians. Thirteen Israelis were killed. The contrast of the numbers needs to be looked at slowly; it affords a clue to the last few weeks. The Palestinian dead in Gaza during July and August 2014 are nowmore than 1600 (It is hard to tell because so many lie buried under the rubble.) Of the Palestinian dead, approximately 80 percent have been civilians. On the Israeli side, this time, 64 soldiers have died, and three civilians.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, and other members of his government have said that the purpose of the IDF reconnaissance, bombing, and shelling of Gaza is to destroy the sites from which missiles are launched at Israel and to close the tunnels built by Hamas to launch ground attacks on Israeli settlements and army outposts. A constant consideration by Israel, he has often added, is to inflict no unnecessary injury on civilians in Gaza. Netanyahu’s primary aim undoubtedly is to protect the people of Israel and to destroy the source of the threat to Israeli civilians. As he has said, no country could be expected to endure such attacks without stopping the attackers. The additional claim put forward by the Israeli government — that the missile sorties from Gaza were unprovoked and bear no relation to the violent raids and mass arrests of Palestinians in preceding days — should not be allowed to pass without skepticism, but provocation does not affect the right of Israel to stop the attacks.

What, then, of the killing of Palestinian civilians by the IDF? In Netanyahu’s account, all of the deaths of unarmed Palestinians have been accidental. These dead include, let it be remembered, hundreds of women and children, killed in schools, in markets, in shelters, in crowded streets, and in house after house in whole blocks of apartments. You do not kill unarmed people in such numbers, and you do not kill women and children on such a scale, when the constantly considered aim of your forces is not to inflict unnecessary injury on civilians. Conversely, when you take the most scrupulous measures to avoid the killing of innocents, it does not turn out that the vast majority of the people you have killed are innocents.

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