House Republicans recently kicked up a new controversy by inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak before Congress without consulting Democrats or the President. Netanyahu’s topic of choice? Iranian nuclear weapons. The U.S. and Iran have said that they have made significant progress towards a deal that would “clamp down on Tehran’s nuclear activities for at least 10 years, but then slowly ease restrictions on programs that could be used to make atomic arms,” the Associated Press reported. Predictably, our Israeli allies viewed this as a significant threat toward their country and now, Netanyahu is searching for American support and hurting his case in the process.
Receiving international criticism, Republican House Speaker Boehner’s invitation and Netanyahu’s acceptance seems to be stirring up partisan conflict.
“This unprecedented move threatens to undermine the important bipartisan approach toward Israel,” said senior Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein. Of the 58 Democrats who boycotted Netanyahu’s speech, most cited partisan conflict as their reason for not attending.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi went a step further, condemning Netanyahu’s “condescension” and accusing him of “fear-mongering.” Democrats’ criticism stems from recently leaked Mossad (Israel’s CIA) documents showing that in 2012, Mossad confirmed Iran was not a nuclear threat, just as Netanyahu went before the U.N. to raise alarm over Iran’s nuclear capability. Netanyahu should realize that while Republicans maintain control of the Senate and the House, the Democrats are in no way insignificant. By accepting Boehner’s invitation, Netanyahu turned nuclear proliferation into a partisan issue, draining his support.
Netanyahu has failed to garner the support he needed from Congress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to fast-track legislation that would require Congress to approve any deal with Iran. Previously, the measure had six Democratic supporters, making the bill filibuster-proof. All Democrats have now withdrawn their support, wanting to postpone legislation until the Iran deal has been finalized. The Republicans also grossly misstepped when they sent an open letter to Iran, essentially saying that any deal could be changed or broken by Congress or the next president. Both the White House and the Iranian Leaders have accused Republicans of blocking peace. After decades of hostilities with Iran, a deal could pave the way to peace and stability in the Middle East. As a world leader, the U.S. should be initiating peace, not threatening other countries.
Although the White House’s displeasure over this entire issue is understandable, Netanyahu and the Republicans do have some legitimate concerns. Extreme caution is necessary when negotiating a nuclear deal with an unstable country in an unstable region. However, after many years of tense Iran-U.S. relations, the new talks signal improvements we should not let Netanyahu or Congressional Republicans derail.
It is also slightly hypocritical of the U.S. to instruct other countries on nuclear matters, when we should be turning our attention toward deactivating some of the large, unnecessary stockpiles of American nuclear warheads. Although no exact figures are known, it is estimated the U.S. spends $35 billion per year on nuclear upkeep. Furthermore, a new plan to modernize our ancient nuclear facilities is estimated to cost $1 trillion. America has more than enough weapons to render the Earth uninhabitable. Beyond a certain point, another nuclear warhead merely drains money and does not act as a deterrent to world war. If you look at the troops overseeing the nuclear missiles (called missileers), we hit yet another waste of federal resources. Recently, missileers have undergone a cheating scandal, failed to pass practice drills, and left and lied about leaving silo doors open for food deliveries.
This whole situation with Netanyahu and nuclear weapons is a mess. Perhaps next time Netanyahu should consult his advisers before engaging in American politics, Republicans should be more open, and Obama should exercise more prudence concerning nuclear weapons. Rather than antagonizing each side, we should all attempt to move towards a more cohesive future.