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Robert Agostinelli – Response to” Netanyahu’s Capitol Hill Debacle” by William A. Galston, Wall Street Journal , February 18, 2015

Robert Agostinelli – Response to” Netanyahu’s Capitol Hill Debacle” by William A. Galston, Wall Street Journal , February 18, 2015 

Netanyahu’s Capitol Hill Debacle

The Israeli leader and House speaker are risking a rupture in U.S.-Israel relations – By William A. Galston

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ’s speech to Congress on March 3 will be both a nakedly partisan event and a momentous policy clash.

Speaking on “Fox News Sunday” this weekend, House Speaker John Boehner was frank about his motives for leaving the White House in the dark about the invitation. “I wanted to make sure that there was no interference,” he said, citing White House “animosity” toward the Israeli leader: “I frankly didn’t want that getting in the way, quashing what I thought was a real opportunity.” Asked whether he had turned what has been a rare bipartisan issue into a political dispute, Mr. Boehner replied, “We had every right to do what we did”—a debatable response to a different question.

If inviting the prime minister of a major American ally to address a joint session of Congress two weeks before his country’s general election without notifying the president and congressional Democratic leaders isn’t rank partisanship, I don’t know what is. Mr. Netanyahu, who is hardly inexperienced in the ways of Washington, had to know how this would be received. The inescapable inference is that he did not care, and it isn’t hard to see why.

Begin with the obvious. While accepting Mr. Boehner’s invitation in principle, the prime minister could have told the House speaker that he was unable to leave Israel until after the election. There is no part of Mr. Netanyahu’s message to Congress that would be less relevant or influential for U.S. audiences if it were delivered on April 3 rather than March 3. There is only one audience for whom the timing might make a difference—the Israeli electorate.

But this is about much more than electoral politics. For Prime Minister Netanyahu, it is an existential question, as he made clear in a statement last week that Israel has “a profound disagreement with the United States administration and the rest of the P5+1 over the offer that has been made to Iran. This offer would enable Iran to threaten Israel’s survival.”

Mr. Netanyahu is determined to prevent this offer, or anything like it, from becoming U.S. policy. To that end, he is prepared to mobilize a Republican-led Congress against the president, to force longtime Democratic supporters of Israel to choose between him and President Obama—and, if necessary, to turn U.S.-Israel relations into the partisan issue it has rarely been.

And why not? The prime minister views himself as this generation’s Winston Churchill, with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei cast as Adolf Hitler. To bring the U.S. into the looming conflict, Churchill worked with Franklin Roosevelt to overcome a reluctant Congress. Now Mr. Netanyahu must work with Congress to overcome a reluctant president. And like Churchill, Mr. Netanyahu believes that words are his best weapons—words delivered by one man standing alone on a rostrum representing an embattled ally, invoking common interests, shared principles and the bonds of friendship.

The prime minister is confident that he can do this without weakening, let alone rupturing, the relationship between Israel and the U.S. His statement last week featured a long list of past security disagreements between the two countries despite which, he insists, the relationship grew stronger over time.

But this time could be different. In a recent interview with Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic magazine, Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. and one of Mr. Netanyahu’s closest advisers, detailed Israel’s concerns:

“Israel’s policy is not merely to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon today; it is also to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon in the future. And Israel is very concerned that a deal will be forged that will not dismantle Iran’s nuclear-weapons capability. . . . That is an outcome that is unacceptable to Israel.” Specifically, Israel lacks confidence that international inspections would prevent the diversion of materials produced by the many thousands of centrifuges that reportedly would remain under the terms of the emerging agreement. And once the sanctions are lifted, the Iranian nuclear program could accelerate.

Mr. Netanyahu must know that even with much tougher sanctions, the chances of overcoming these concerns through diplomacy are low. The most the Iranians will offer falls far short of the least that Israel will accept. The real choices reduce to two: an Iran with some negotiated level of nuclear infrastructure supervised with a rigorous inspection regime, or war.

The prime minister must also know that although Israel’s military could inflict significant damage on Iran’s nuclear program, his country could at best delay Iran’s march to the bomb.

So when Mr. Netanyahu addresses Congress, a question will be lurking in the shadows: If negotiations leave Israel facing what it regards as an existential threat, should the U.S. accept the deal? And if we do not, is there an alternative that would be more effective, at a price that the war-weary American people would accept?

Roberts Response to” Netanyahu’s Capitol Hill Debacle” by William A. Galston, Wall Street Journal , February 18, 2015

The position posited by Mr. Galston is less a complaint than it is an indictment of the reckless attitude that the Executive Branch of the United States has taken toward their own nation’s interests and that of one of their longest standing allies, Israel.

The invitation and acceptance to speak before the joint session of Congress by Prime Minister Netanyahu is neither an insult to President Obama nor an election ploy. Rather it is a long overdue attempt to have the elected representatives of the Nation hear first hand the case to defend those very same interests against our joint dedicated enemy, Iran.

The tradition of foreign leaders speaking before Congress is well established it is a natural dialogue with ample precedent and can only be viewed as “partisan” in the attempt to frustrate such an act as is the case with the Obama Administration.

The focus should not be on these faux upsets but rather on the level of Administration’s misdirection, subterfuge and wholesale undermining of Israel through premeditated leaks, false promises and embrace of our enemy in again disregard for our joint interests.

The flat reality is that there is no deal between the P5+1 and Iran that can reassure the United States, our allies nor Israel that Iran will not get the bomb. There is no set of sanctions and rigorous and as intrusive as they be inspections that can ultimately assure anyone that no bombs will exist. This of course is wholly apart from the growing long range missile arsenal held by Iran.

Prior UN dictates and US policy have been clear not to negotiate around the bottom line of no nuclear capacity with this regime. This extended so called set of negotiations have proved two and only two things; Iran is set in its intent of gaining a nuclear alternative to buttress it’s wild eyed maniacal dream of an extended Caliphate and their oft proclaimed dedicated intent of wiping “little Satan” from the face of the earth and second that President Obama is equally maniacal in his intent at achieving a grand bargain with the Mullahs whatever the cost.

Beyond the reality of this existential threat to Israel made more real by the conscious undermining by the Administration is the certainty that this debacle will indeed lead to two other outcomes; a rapid grab by other gulf states to acquire nuclear weapons and the real risk of a war that the fear mongers so worry will come about by being strong in the face of an enemy today.

These issues must be heard by the American people unvarnished by the lies of the Obama administration. Far from the accusation of partisanship the real concern of this President that both sides of the isle may pause with real concern over why we have abandoned our ally and put their and our security at risk.

A magnanimous leader would have no fear from this speech unless this were the reality.

Far from the public disrespect, the wholly ignorant interludes at attempting peace between Israel and their dedicated enemy Hamas and phony links between the adversarial attitudes elsewhere in the Gulf and the Palestinian question comes this issue. The Unites States is a lifelong supporter of Zion as the spiritual tree of the founding of the Republic. This plea is urgent and very real and speaks to the ultimate reality that Israel is the front line in the war on terror and linked to our security. Let the American people absorb these truths and measure for themselves what Mr. Obama’s real intent is and where his real interests lie.

This is his concern that defines his reaction and why this speech is defining moment in a relationship whose rupture is his sole responsibility.

Robert F. Agostinelli A Founding Member of the Friends of Israel Initiative

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Conrad Austin

About me: My name is Conrad Austin and I am a 21 year old student from Houston, Texas, studying for a Master of Science in Finance at the University of Houston. As part of a thesis I am writing - I have focused on one individual to highlight a number of aspects in a career I hope to engage in. About Robert: Robert Agostinelli is the Managing Director at Rhône Group, Prior to co-founding Rhône, Robert Agostinelli was a Senior Managing Director at Lazard Frères & Co

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