1. Update
  2. Middle East & Iran, Nuclear Weapons

What Netanyahu Got Wrong

By Kate Gould, Wardah Khalid, March 3, 2015


Today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke before a joint meeting of Congress. Below is a quick reaction on what Netanyahu got wrong, and some of the problems with the substance, timing, and how the speech was arranged in the first place.

What's Wrong with the Substance:

Too many misleading claims were made to go into them all here, but let's take P.M. Netanyahu's charge that "the alternative to this bad deal is a much better deal." What P.M. Netanyahu didn't mention is the tremendous progress that diplomacy has already made in halting and rolling back Iran's nuclear program. Thanks to our diplomats hard work, inspectors are monitoring Iran's nuclear program daily instead of just every few weeks, or even every few months.

What P.M. Netanyahu didn't mention is the tremendous progress that diplomacy has already made in halting and rolling back Iran's nuclear program.

So there is already a good deal in place. But what's more is that the deal that negotiators are working to secure is an even better deal. But the ultimatums Netanyahu presses for would not mean a 'much better deal,' but instead would mean no deal at all. The Bush administration tried many of those same ultimatums, and as a result, negotiations were stalled, Iran's nuclear program expanded, and the U.S. and Iran teetered on the brink of war.

Our friends at the National Iranian American Council have a terrific graphic comparing the benefits of securing the deal our negotiators are currently striving for as compared to ultimatums supported by those against the current negotiations.

PM Netanyahu’s speech focused on the nuclear negotiations that are currently taking place between Iran and the P5+1. Netanyahu claimed that this deal would be catastrophic to the state of Israel. In fact, a deal that limits Iran’s nuclear capabilities and allows international inspectors far greater access to its nuclear facilities than they presently have actually puts Israel and the region in a safer position than it would be if the talks failed. If the talks failed, Iran could pursue a number of options, including accelerating its nuclear program, which is the last thing Israel wants.

What's Wrong with the Invitation:

House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to PM Netanyahu to address Congress, without the knowledge and consent of the White House, was a blatant breach of diplomatic protocol. President Obama's press secretary, Josh Earnest, has explained that the typical protocol is that a country's leader would contact the White House before planning to visit the United States. But Earnest says they didn't hear about Boehner's invitation until Wednesday morning, shortly before the speaker announced it publicly. Part of good governance is for our executive and legislative branches to strictly adhere to their separate responsibilities. This basic tenant of good governance should not be compromised for political gains.

What's Wrong with the Timing:

The timing of PM Netanyahu’s speech, just weeks before Israeli elections, is also highly problematic. "As a matter of policy, we think it's a mistake for the prime minister of any country to come to speak before Congress a few weeks before they're about to have an election,” President Obama said recently. “It makes it look like we are taking sides.” President Obama is not the only one to express this sentiment, as many Jewish American organizations did the same, stating that Netanyahu did not speak for them and urging members of Congress to speak out in favor of diplomacy and skip the speech.

Kate Gould

  • Legislative Representative, Middle East Policy

Kate Gould serves as the Legislative Representative for Middle East Policy. Kate directs FCNL's lobbying on Middle East policy, and is one of only a handful of registered lobbyists in Washington, D.C. working to support diplomatic solutions to disputes between the U.S. and Iran and the conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Israel/Palestine.

Wardah Khalid

  • Scoville Fellow, Middle East Policy

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