Benjamin Netanyahu is currently Washington’s uninvited guest, deciding the electoral boost back home is worth the White House snub. In any case, after Barack Obama’s overtures to Iran’s Hassan Rohani in 2013, Israel’s prime minister has been fuming.
“Iran gets everything they wanted at this stage and it pays nothing. I urge Secretary Kerry not to rush to sign. To wait, to reconsider, to get a good deal. But this is a bad deal. A very bad deal,” Netanyahu insisted in November 2013.
At issue is Iran’s nuclear programme, a programme Netanyahu has been issuing exactly the same warnings about for 20 years. It is not so much he is wrong; it is just that we have been here before with Weapons of Mass Destruction.
“Iran can quickly enrich uranium at 3.5% to 90%, which is necessary for a nuclear weapon,” is a claim he made in the recent past. Yet in 1996 it was “Time is running out”, and then it was “Now time is running out” in 2011.
In 2012 Netanyahu was at the UN with an almost pantomime-style bomb diagram on a hold-up card:
“Where’s Iran? Now they are at the second stage and by next spring at most by next summer they will move on to the final stage. From there it’s only a few months, possibly a few weeks before they get enough enrich uranium for the first bomb,” he warned
Ending America’s long freeze with Iran is a prize many in Washington want to pursue, but Israel’s importance and influence in Washington remain undiminished.
Netanyahu’s appears dimmed, though, unless it is with the anti-Obama Congressional majority and critics of the administration.
Standing up for Israel’s interests is one thing, losing the ear of your main ally is another. Israeli voters know the peril of facing their enemies alone if relations with Washington should break down.
However Netanyahu has put the Iranian question at the centre of his campaign if not his political career and will do anything he can to prevent relations warming between Israel’s sworn enemy and guardian angel.
While this level of mistrust exists any major change in Israel or America’s foreign policy regarding Iran seems doomed, and the potential regional gains from better relations between the West and Iran will not be seized.