A world leader giving an address to Congress shouldn’t be controversial, especially when that leader is the prime minister of a major U.S. ally — indeed, a bulwark of freedom in a deeply troubled region of the world.
So how did Benjamin Netanyahu giving a speech to Congress become such a political football? Sure, the timing is one reason. Mr. Netanyahu is running for another term as prime minister, and the elections are set for March 17. Some lawmakers were willing to use that as an excuse to sit out the speech.
Others point to protocol, arguing the White House wasn’t notified in advance. House Speaker John Boehner simply extended the invitation to Mr. Netanyahu of his own accord. Of course, Congress is entitled to invite whomever it likes to speak. Notifying the White House is not necessary.
But the problem goes much deeper than that. The fact is, the Obama administration doesn’t like the idea of Mr. Netanyahu exposing, in a high-profile speech, just how weak-kneed and feckless the White House is when it comes to the critical issue of how to restrain Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
In plain terms, the administration appears content to merely delay Iran’s plans to develop and field nuclear weapons. Kicking it 10 years down the road, and taking the mullahs’ promises at face value, works for Mr. Obama and Secretary of State John F. Kerry. Not for Mr. Netanyahu, who quite rightly seeks an outright end to Iran’s nuclear plans.
“The United States must stand with a close friend who faces a vicious enemy in Tehran, a brutal Islamist regime with every intention of building a nuclear weapons capability, and wiping its near neighbor off the map,” foreign policy expert Nile Gardiner recently noted. “Alliances matter, and the United States has no greater partner in the Middle East than Israel, a nation that fights for its very survival.”
Unfortunately, this isn’t the only issue that Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu don’t see eye to eye on. Their political philosophies are diametrically opposed. And the president has shown from the start of his administration that his calls for “engagement” and “reset” means that hostile powers will get a reassuring pat on the back — while allies get the back of our hand.
In such a politically poisonous environment, it’s heartening to see Congress willing to stand with the people of Israel. Mr. Obama may not like being reminded of just how misguided and ineffective his Middle East policy has been, but the American people deserve the truth about what’s at stake here.
This address is intended to plead with a tin-eared administration not to be fooled by the mullahs in Tehran. Their goal isn’t peace — it’s an end to Western economic sanctions. Israel and the United States are the only things standing in the way of their plans to light the fuse on a Middle East powder keg that could obliterate the whole region.
That’s why this administration needs to be warned about the dangers of appeasement. This is no time to make more concessions. It’s a time to stand up against Iran’s nuclear program, which threatens not only the security of the Middle East, but the U.S. as well.
As the 2015 Index of Military Strength shows, Iran’s missile threat is growing at an alarming rate. Its longest-range current missile can reach as far west as Egypt, and as far east as China — and it’s working to go much farther. “Iran could develop and test an ICBM capable of reaching the United States by 2015,” the Pentagon reports. As in this year.
It’s crucial that we stand with Israel, a staunch ally fighting on the front lines, at this critical time. The safety of millions depends on us doing the right thing. Will we?
- Ed Feulner is the founder of the Heritage Foundation.
Originally appeared in The Washington Times