1. Update
  2. Middle East & Iran

Watershed Week for Diplomacy

By Wardah Khalid, February 25, 2015

On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address a joint meeting of Congress. He will be speaking on the same day as more than 10,000 advocates with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) are expected to lobby their members of Congress to support imposing new sanctions on Iran.

P.M. Netanyahu is also expected to urge Congress to impose new sanctions with Iran, which would gravely undermine U.S. and international diplomatic efforts to achieve peace and security in the Middle East. New sanctions would jeopardize the progress that has been made in halting and rolling back Iran's nuclear program for the first time in more than a decade.

A comprehensive nuclear deal that guards against a nuclear-armed Iran would make the world a safer place for everyone--including Israel.

The Iran nuclear negotiations are a historic opportunity to thaw a relationship that has been dangerously icy for decades. We at FCNL appreciate the many members of Congress who have expressed support for the Iran talks and opposed additional sanctions that could derail the discussion during this critical time. If successful, the U.S. will be on its way to achieving its goal of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and destabilizing the region. If they fail, we embolden Iranian hardliners, who also oppose the talks, and undermine those pushing for engagement with the U.S.

A comprehensive nuclear deal that guards against a nuclear-armed Iran would make the world a safer place for everyone--including Israel. While P.M. Netanyahu has consistently spoken out against the talks and taken a harder line towards Iran, various U.S. and Israeli security officials have vociferously opposed an attack on Iran. Brigadier General Uzi Eilam (ret.), the former chief of Israel's nuclear program, joined FCNL for the #DiplomacyWorks lobby days last November, making the point that "Now is the Time for Diplomacy ."

Politicized Timing

In addition to the anticipated problematic substance of the speech, the timing of the speech has been widely criticized. Not only is the speech in the midst of sensitive negotiations just weeks before negotiators are trying to secure a political framework, but it also coincides with P.M. Netanyahu's reelection bid during the Israeli elections on March 17th. The Obama administration has pointed out that it is inappropriate for foreign leaders to use our Congress as a platform for their local politics, and accordingly President Obama and Vice President Biden will not be attending. J Street also made this point in their ad today featured in the New York Times.

Several other Jewish organizations have spoken out against the speech, such as Americans for Peace Now and Jewish Voice for Peace. The hashtag campaigns declaring #BibiDoesntSpeakForMe and those urging members of Congress to #SkipTheSpeech are gaining in popularity.

Many members of Congress listened to their constituents and have spoken out in support of diplomacy with Iran and/or not attending the speech. FCNL supported a congressional sign-on letter led by Representatives Keith Ellison (MN), Steve Cohen (TN), and Maxine Waters (CA) to urge Speaker John Boehner to postpone the speech until after the Israeli elections and the conclusion of the Iran nuclear negotiations.

With the speech going ahead as planned, this is a crucial time to send a message your members of Congress to oppose the push for new sanctions and other efforts to derail the talks.

Wardah Khalid

  • Scoville Fellow, Middle East Policy

Wardah was a Scoville Fellow for Middle East Policy working with the FCNL Education Fund in 2015.