Netanyahu’s address to the US Congress

Netanyahu’s address to the US Congress

I am not an American. If I was, I would be questioning how the elected deputies of my Congress could allow a foreign leader - especially one who is contributing nothing to world peace - to come to my legislature and try to undermine the elected president of my country for trying to contribute to world peace. 

American democracy clearly allows this to happen. Whether it is a commendable thing that a foreigner can be given an opportunity to try and influence and divide another country in this way is another question though. 

There are important European countries currently contributing to Washington’s efforts to try to arrive at an understanding with Iran on the nuclear issue. Apart from many Americans, there must, therefore, also be many Europeans who are asking the same questions today. 

It does not take much imagination, of course, to realize the kind of age-old prejudices Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s fiery anti-Iranian, and by implication anti-Obama, address to the U.S. Congress on Monday will have spurred. “Does Israel control America?” is a question that will undoubtedly have come to many minds, together with the usual anti-Semitic accusations. 

Israel is not a much-loved country these days for the grossly disproportionate brutality it has visited on Palestinians in Gaza in the name of retaliation for terrorism. This allows for all kinds of negative sentiments against it to surface much more easily than they would otherwise. 

I am not an Israeli either but I can’t help wondering how sensible Israelis feel about all this. There is also a bitter irony in all of this for the Israelis; they have ended up in the same camp as Saudi Arabia, Iran’s bitter regional rival. 

Riyadh must be pleased about the way Netanyahu is trying to stymie the current talks with Iran. Anything that keeps the pressure on Tehran when it is making political headway in the region, from Iraq and Syria to Yemen, clearly works to the advantage of Saudi Arabia.

It is not clear how much of a fix a congressman from Idaho or Oklahoma has on all this. But the Middle East today is much more than just the Israeli-Arab conflict. It is an increasingly dangerous place for reasons that have nothing to do with this conflict.

The main threat for the region today is from groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which have not only proven their barbaric credentials in the Middle East, but also in the heart of Europe. This is clearly a matter of deep concern for Washington, as it also is for Tehran.

Developments in the Middle East have produced a set of circumstances that could not have been imaginable a number of years ago. These circumstances will also require Iran’s cooperation as a stabilizing power. An Iran that is working with the international community is manifestly more desirable than a cornered and consequently belligerent Iran, which - for all the isolation and pressure imposed on it - will retain an ability to influence developments negatively. It also has to be recalled that Tehran will never be as isolated as Israel and the U.S. would like it to be because of global powers such as Russia and China.

There is no guarantee that President Barack Obama’s efforts at rapprochement with Iran will work. Iranians are a proud nation and they will want to retain the international privileges accorded to any country in the world. But this exercise is a worthwhile one, and if it produces positive results, it will contribute greatly to efforts aimed at trying to bring stability to the Middle East.

This is what Netanyahu, with help from the U.S. Congress, is trying to spoil now by accusing the Obama administration of naïveté. His “realism,” however, promises nothing.  As President Obama said, there was also nothing new in his address to Congress either. 

Sensible people everywhere must be hoping that Netanyahu fails in his odd mission.