Obama Administration Courts Iran While Slapping Israel

COMMENTARY Global Politics

Obama Administration Courts Iran While Slapping Israel

Mar 20th, 2015 2 min read
COMMENTARY BY
James Phillips

Senior Research Fellow, The Heritage Foundation

James Phillips is a senior research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs at The Heritage Foundation.

As the Obama administration mounts a final diplomatic push to secure a nuclear agreement with Iran, bilateral Israeli-American relations continue to deteriorate.

This week Secretary of State John Kerry joined Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Lausanne, Switzerland for an intensive round of negotiations ahead of the March 31 deadline for a framework agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue.

The administration has bent over backwards to ingratiate itself with Iran’s dictatorship in a misguided effort to coax a rapprochement out of Tehran’s diehard Islamist revolutionaries.

The administration has held out the prospect of cooperating with Iran against the terrorist threat posed by the Islamic State and downplayed Iran’s support for terrorism.

The most recent worldwide threat assessment by James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, went so far as to omit Iran from the section on terrorist threats, despite the fact that Iran remains the world’s foremost state-sponsor of terrorism.

The administration also has gone out of its way to defend Iran against charges that it already has cheated on the interim nuclear agreement.  It excused Iranian testing of an advanced centrifuge as an “error” by a low-level Iranian scientist who did not understand the limits placed on experimentation.

Such eagerness to give Iran the benefit of the doubt has stoked nervousness among U.S. allies in the Middle East, who fear that an Iranian-American détente will come at their expense.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been the most vocal critic of the pending nuclear deal with Iran, has triggered the ire of the White House and been the target of public rebukes and anonymous sniping by administration officials.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest on Wednesday went out of his way to criticize Netanyahu for his campaign rhetoric, which included appealing for potential supporters to vote for his Likud Party to offset the expected votes of “droves” of Israeli Arabs, who had formed a joint list with Israel’s Communist Party.

White House officials also suggested that Netanyahu’s newly-declared opposition to a Palestinian state could jeopardize American support for Israel at the United Nations, where Washington historically has blocked one-sided Security Council resolutions hostile to Israel.

Such a spiteful response would boost Palestinian efforts to delegitimize and isolate Israel, while encouraging Palestinians to continue their efforts to do an end run around Israel by shunning negotiations in favor of pursuing the mirage of unilateral statehood through the United Nations.

Netanyahu walked back his opposition to a Palestinian state on Thursday, when he stated: “I don’t want a one-state solution. I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution.”

But the Obama administration, which itself has an acrobatic record for flip-flops on Middle East issues, including how to address the fighting in Syria, Iraq and Libya, remains unforgiving of the prime minister’s campaign rhetoric.

It is outrageous that the Obama administration can’t seem to give Netanyahu the same benefit of the doubt that it gives to Iran’s hostile regime, which has a long history of cheating on its nuclear commitments, calling for destruction of Israel and the United States, and supporting terrorism against Americans.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal