Showdown looming between Obama, Netanyahu
March 3, 2015
Like most political speeches, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's congressional address was part theater and part substance.
His speech was an articulate indictment of the Iranian regime and the nuclear agreement taking shape, which he called a "very bad deal." The problem is that Netanyahu's penchant for political theater consistently distracts from his substantive points on Iran.
Moreover, by wading so deeply into American partisan politics, Netanyahu threatens to erode bipartisan support for Israel, which has been a tenet of U.S. support for three decades. Anything that harms that support harms Israel and U.S.-Israeli cooperation.
Netanyahu spoke to Congress, but he hopes Israeli voters, who head to the polls on March 17, are also listening. His speech aims to show Israelis that he is a tough leader, willing to stand up for Israel's survival, even if it means confronting the U.S. president, and his upcoming campaign ads are sure to feature the standing ovations and warm congressional embrace that he received.
If this strategy pays off and Netanyahu forms Israel's next government, while Iran talks reach a decisive moment, the showdown over his congressional address could merely be the dress rehearsal for a much more intense political showdown between Netanyahu and the Obama administration over Iran.
(This Commentary originally appeared on CNN.com on March 3rd)
Haim Malka is senior fellow and deputy director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington D.C.
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