Asian Conversations - an online magazine to explore Asia's future

Barracking Barack - Bibi's bet

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to the US Congress on 3 March 2015 - at the invitation of the Republican Party and not the White House - set off a tsunami in all directions, with the Republicans offering standing ovations and Democrat Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi saying she was "in tears throughout... saddened by the insult to the intelligence of the United States" and the "condescension shown".

The Washington Post railed against the US President, saying, "It is also fascinating that Obama does not dispute Netanyahu’s accusation that he is seeking an alliance with Iran to defeat the Islamic State. That in a way is a far more grievous and fundamental error than his nuclear negotiations posture, for it involves selling out all our allies in the region and cozying up to a nation that wants to destroy Israel."

While Obama was dismissive of the speech arguing Netanyahu brought nothing new to the table, the object of Israel's ire, Iran, which was in talks with Secretary of State John Kerry in Switzerland, hit back. Al Jazeera reported, "Iran denies accusations it wishes to produce such a weapon." It added, "Massoumeh Ebtekar, Iran's vice president, said on Tuesday that Netanyahu was trying to derail the negotiations." Many saw the speech as a campaign ploy for the Israeli PM with elections just weeks away.

The New York Times said, "While an agreement would not abolish the nuclear program, which Iran says it needs for power generation and medical purposes, neither would walking away. Even repeated bombing of Iran’s nuclear plants would not eliminate its capability because Iran and its scientists have acquired the nuclear know-how over the past six decades to rebuild the program in a couple of years." NYT concluded, "Iran’s behavior is often threatening and reprehensible, and that is precisely why Mr. Obama has invested so much energy in trying to find a negotiated solution."

Al Jazeera America opines, "In reality, any viable nuclear deal will impose stringent limits on Iran’s program and subject it to intrusive international inspections... It is in Netanyahu’s interest to halt US-Iranian reconciliation, since it would strip the prime minister of a dispute that he exploits to distract attention from Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories."

The Indian Express in a comment titled, 'Bibi vs Barack' concluded, "In the end, Netanyahu cannot stop a deal if one is possible. Yet, his speech exposed the still unbridgeable political divide in the US. Israel has always enjoyed bipartisan support. But the fact that several senior Democrats, including Vice President Joe Biden, refused to be part of Netanyahu’s audience could be a warning about the limits of consensus." - Asian Conversations