Netanyahu Speech: Strong Rhetoric, No Realistic Alternative

March 3, 2015

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress offered no new ideas and no realistic strategy to resolve the Iranian nuclear crisis.

The Israeli prime minister has insisted that, despite the inappropriate timing of his address, the American people needed to hear what he had to say. But the speech he delivered is one we've heard many times before. There is no disagreement with the Obama administration or proponents of a diplomatic agreement that a nuclear Iran would be unacceptable. The difference is that the President is pursuing serious diplomacy to prevent that outcome, while Netanyahu offers no credible solutions.

Netanyahu insists he favors a diplomatic solution to the crisis but the terms he laid out, which included demands regarding Iran’s behavior unrelated to its nuclear program, are simply not achievable.

The deal with Obama administration is pursuing would block Iran’s pathways to developing the fissile material necessary for a bomb and extend the time the Iranians would need to produce enough weapons-grade uranium to build a bomb from today’s estimated three months to at least a year. Without a deal, Iran would revert to building up its stockpile of nuclear uranium while the international community would lose its ability to monitor and track Iran’s activities. How would this make Israel safer?

The State of Israel paid a considerable price for this speech that was delivered just two weeks before the Israeli election and itself has become a key election issue. The traditional US bipartisan unity regarding Israel has been seriously fractured as never before.

As Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va) said in a statement, “The process employed by Mr. Netanyahu and his Ambassador, Mr. Dermer, to secure this privilege (to address a joint session) is deeply offensive and hurtful. It has driven a partisan wedge where none has ever existed before, it has provided a gratuitous insult to our head of state, and bypassed any reasonable norm of diplomatic protocol.”

Now that we have heard the speech, we can say that Netanyahu's words did not justify this price.