Last Tuesday, Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the U.S. Congress about the ongoing negotiations between the P5 + 1 and the aspiring nuclear Iran. In his address, he urged House Representatives to stand against a deal that would lessen international sanctions on Iran in exchange for a decrease in some nuclear activity. He said “it doesn’t block Iran’s path to the bomb; it paves Iran’s path to the bomb.” Netanyahu’s decision to visit Congress came after an invitation from Speaker of the House John Boehner—but without consultation with the White House—and two weeks prior to an election in Israel. President Obama criticized the initial visit and the speech itself, expressing, “on the core issue, which is how to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon which would make it far more dangerous, the prime minister didn’t offer any viable alternatives.” Netanyahu claimed that he had no interest in encroaching on U.S. politics. How do you react to Netanyahu’s visit, and what do you think should be done to prevent a nuclear Iran?

Iona Feldman ’17
In making a diplomatic visit without the approval of the Obama administration, Netanyahu caused a political uproar that led to a boycott of his speech by top members of the administration and 58 Democratic members of Congress. This is somewhat atypical in US politics, perhaps showing that Netanyahu’s continuing hard line policies are opposed not only by anti-Zionist activists but also by many liberal politicians.Netanyahu called for tougher stances on Iran, sowing doubt about the effectiveness of a (not yet existent) agreement between Iran and the United States. However, the very premise of his demands are hypocritical as his country, Israel, has refused to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and already has several hundred nuclear warheads of its own. A meaningful solution must not only concern Iran; it must take steps prohibiting development of nuclear weapons throughout the Middle East.
Iona Feldman ’17 is a member of Students for Justice in Palestine. 

Prof. Eric Fleisch (NEJS)

Whatever valid points Netanyahu may have had in his speech about the flaws in the specific deal being negotiated or in his urgency to scuttle it, the showmanship of the whole incident should be understood as at least in part a political stunt. Netanyahu has proven time and again that he is an expert in ensuring his own political survival. It is easy political fodder for him to take on President Obama publicly in the name of standing up for Israel’s security because the one thing that most Israelis seem to agree on is that they do not like Obama. Regardless of the effects the content of his speech may have had on Knesset election results next week, Netanyahu did a masterful job deflecting the conversation in Israel away from the pressing social and economic issues that his opponents wanted to have as the focus of the election.

Prof. Eric Fleisch is a lecturer in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies.

Dor Cohen ’16
Whether or not giving the speech was a wise decision given its highly politicized atmosphere, Netanyahu’s message is one that should be listened to. Among various other problems, the current nuclear deal being negotiated would leave Iran as a nuclear threshold state for 15 years, with a breakout capability of one year. Further, the Obama administration’s claim that Netanyahu is trying to embarrass it is laughable, considering the numerous occasions during which this administration has attacked the Israeli prime minister both publicly and privately. It is more likely that the administration is making a scandal out of the speech to sway the opinion of the Israeli public and Congressional Democrats against Netanyahu so that Labor head Isaac Herzog will prevail in the elections and Democrats will support the current deal. They say that no deal is better than a bad deal; this deal is that bad deal. The amount of trust the president is showing in Iran and the lack of support he has shown Israel is confounding. Further sanctions should be enacted until Iran makes substantial concessions and a deal aimed at truly preventing—instead of simply postponing—Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons can be established.
Dor Cohen ’16 is an undergraduate departmental representative for the politics department. 

David Schwartz ’15

In the face of constant threats of destruction by the Iranian regime, Israel finds itself at an urgent crossroads. On the one hand, the special relationship between the United States and Israel plays a crucial role in stopping Iran from developing nuclear weapons. On the other hand, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not see the current administration as being active enough in stopping Iran. In fact, the majority of Americans also oppose the foreign policy of President Obama. Netanyahu is legitimately concerned about the lack of action in the face of a potential second Holocaust if Iran is able to obtain weapons. And we must remember that all military action of Iran is controlled by its extreme supreme leader, who continues to threaten to wipe Israel off the map. The current deal on the table would allow Iran to maintain thousands of centrifuges and, according to many reports, still be able to enrich the necessary uranium to develop a nuclear weapon within five or ten years. This is not a viable plan. In the words of Netanyahu himself, “No deal is better than a bad deal. Well, this is a bad deal.”

David Schwartz ’16 is a co-president of the Brandeis Israel Public Affairs Committee. 

Miriam Fink ’15

A bad deal is worse than no deal. A year has passed, and no negotiations have been made between Iran and P5+1. It seems that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke in front of Congress in order to emphasize the importance of ensuring Iran is nuclear free because Israel and the entire region are at huge risk if Iran develops nuclear weaponry. Although Netanyahu spoke two weeks before the Israeli elections, I do not believe Netanyahu’s act was for political gain: he merely served his people in rallying Israel’s greatest ally in the hopes of preventing an Iranian nuclear program. I believe that the two bills that are being lobbied for now, The Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015 and the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, are the best ways to prevent a nuclear Iran as sanctions have proven to work. These two bills urge Iran to enter the negotiating tables, and if no deal is reached by the end of the nuclear talks, Iran will face the consequences: more sanctions. I believe it is abhorrent for a state where the Ayatollah still holds significant power to create a nuclear weapon which, when used, will destroy the entire region. A nuclear free Iran is what most want to see, but the means to this end are in question.

Miriam Fink is a co-President of the Brandeis Israel Public Affairs Committee.