WASHINGTON—“AIPAC is bipartisan, check your gloves at the door,” read a projected billboard messages to the left of the podium where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed AIPAC this morning.
More and more, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has come to embrace the muscular, neoconservative foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration. On issues like President Obama’s P5+1 negotiations with Iran, there’s no daylight between AIPAC and the extremist Zionist Organization of America.
So it’s no surprise that Netanyahu used this forum to preview the speech he will deliver to Congress tomorrow.
Today, Netanyahu indicated that in tomorrow’s speech before Congress he will not be moving off his position.
Netanyahu has addressed AIPAC in the past, so his appearance here was predictable. That House Speaker John Boehner invited him to address the Congress without consulting the president was not. It was “treasonous,” said a friend who spent a career on Capitol Hill.
Boehner and Netanyahu are collaborating in an effort to scuttle a critical foreign policy initiative in which Obama has invested years: an attempt to negotiate an agreement that will ensure that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program.
The critical pieces of a successful multinational Iran accord will cap the number of centrifuges Iran can operate; drastically reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium; impose technical restrictions on a heavy-water reactor that can produce plutonium; and allow onsite (and “snap”) inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Netanyahu’s alternative: Iran abandons all enrichment of uranium or Israel’s air force bombs Iran’s nuclear facilities.
It was previewed in the spring of 2010 when the heads of Israel’s intelligence agency and defense forces resigned after Netanyahu ordered them to prepare for an air attack on Iran.
It now turns out that the case Netanyahu will present to Congress is predicated on false statements he has gotten away with since he told the U.N. in October 2012 that Iran was months away from the capability to build a bomb.
A week before Netanyahu arrived for his back-to-back speeches this week, his apocalyptic warnings were contradicted by his own national intelligence service.
On February 23, The Guardian published Mossad intelligence documents in which Israel’s intelligence analysts described an Iranian nuclear program much farther from the weapons capability of which Netanyahu has been warning.
Would he walk back his obviously false statements in his AIPAC speech?
He didn’t get technical, as he had attempted to do with his now-discredited appearance with a bomb cartoon at the U.N. in 2012.
But he indicated that in tomorrow’s speech before Congress he will not be moving off his position.
“The purpose of my address tomorrow is to speak up about a potential deal with Iran that could threaten the survival of Israel,” he said.
“I plan to speak about an Iranian regime that is threatening to destroy Israel … and is developing, as we speak, the capacity to make nuclear weapons.”
His remarks continue to be at odds with some basic facts.
Because of the negotiations the Obama administration is leading, the IAEA has inspectors visiting Iran’s nuclear facilities, and Iran has frozen the development of its program, which had been rapidly expanding since the Bush administration.
The rest of Netanyahu’s talk was given over to the standard anodyne observations about Israel and the United States: shared values, two democracies, military, strong inseparable allies.
And an awkward attempt to address the fact that his visit is unwelcome by President Obama. (According to The Hill, 42 Democrats, including five senators, plan to skip his speech.)
“What is not the purpose of that speech, it is not to show any disrespect to President Obama or the esteemed office that he holds. I have great respect for both.
“My speech is also not intended to inject Israel into the American partisan debate.
“The last thing that I would want is for Israel to become a partisan issue.”
The message worked with this audience of 16,000.
It will get an equally enthusiastic reception among Congressional Republicans.
As far as not making Israel “a partisan issue,” that moment has passed.
March 2, 2015
Lou Dubose of the editor of The Washington Spectator.