By Mikaela Tenner
On March 3, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Congress in one of the most controversial speeches in recent U.S. history. The United States has long-standing precedent of not inviting foreign leaders to address the country shortly before their national elections, yet Speaker of the House John Boehner ignored precedent and still asked the Prime Minister to address Congress, even though Israeli elections take place on March 17. President Obama, along with 58 members of Congress, skipped the Prime Minister’s speech.
One day before speaking in Congress, Prime Minister Netanyahu stopped by Washington D.C. to attend the annual American-Israeli Public Affairs Commission conference. The conference was attended by more than 16,000 pro-Israel Americans, and is the largest gathering of its kind. During his address to the AIPAC community, Netanyahu thanked the AIPAC attendees for their dedication toward preserving and strengthening the vital Israeli-American relationship. The Prime Minister emphasized not allowing Iran under any circumstances to obtain a nuclear weapon. He made it clear that it is the responsibility of the United States, as Israel’s strongest ally, to prevent Iran from obtaining a weapon that could induce mass destruction on Israel.
Netanyahu also addressed the growing political rifts that have come between Israel and the United States. He maintained that this rift is only temporary and that America and Israel will come together once more. Netanyahu also stressed the importance of support for Israel remaining a bipartisan issue in the United States.
Given the historic association of Jewish-Americans with the Democratic Party (80 percent identify themselves as Democrats), the fact that nearly all of the 58 members of Congress that skipped the speech are Democrats highlights the growing rift between Jewish-Americans and the Democratic Party. Although there have been rifts between Obama and Netanyahu in the past, many have begun to question whether or not the stance taken by individual Democrats who skipped the speech will create a large divide between the Democratic Party and its strong Jewish base.
Immediately following his speech to AIPAC and Congress, Netanyahu drew criticism primarily from liberal politicians and news channels for his hard stance against Iran. For example, Chris Matthews, a host on MSNBC, called Netanyahu’s speech a “takeover attempt,” referring to Netanyahu’s implication that he is more knowledgeable than Obama on the issue of Iran.
Nevertheless, it is vital that Netanyahu emphasize how deadly a bad deal with Iran could be. Iran has expressed its desire to destroy Israel quite frequently, and just last week Iranian officials had a weapon demonstration in which they demonstrated their firepower by blowing up the Israeli flag. If Iran obtains a nuclear weapon, the United States may not be in immediate danger, but Israel’s proximity to Iran’s capital, Tehran, is definitely concerning and provides plausible reason to be fearful. Likewise, Israel is one of the smallest nations in the world, meaning its 8000 square miles of land could possibly be destroyed by just one nuclear bomb.
Ultimately, the United States is legitimizing Iran’s creation of a nuclear arsenal by creating an agreement with them. This deal could potentially be tragic for one of their closest allies. It is unfortunate that the United States is willing to jeopardize the existence of its ally to satisfy a country that has never been a friend of the United States. In order to preserve relations between the United States and Israel, it is vital to take a harsh stance against Iran.