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Netanyahu's Congress gamble could backfire on Israel

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Significance

The speech comes two weeks before Israeli parliamentary elections on March 17 and a looming end of March deadline for reaching a framework agreement on Iran's nuclear programme. Netanyahu's speech aims to convince Congress to pass new sanctions legislation, which President Barack Obama has threatened to veto. The Obama administration accuses Netanyahu of trying to sabotage Iran negotiations and of meddling in US politics, while Netanyahu counters that world powers appear to have given up on their pledge to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. The president and other senior administration officials have refused to meet Netanyahu during his visit, which was orchestrated by Republican Congressional leaders without White House coordination, citing the long-standing policy of not appearing with foreign political candidates close to elections.

Impacts

  • Some Democratic lawmakers will boycott Netanyahu's speech, threatening to erode bipartisan support for Israel in Congress.
  • US distrust of Netanyahu is limiting intelligence sharing, and could disrupt military cooperation, including some Israeli defence sales.
  • The Obama administration could respond to the tensions by supporting a UNSC resolution laying out the parameters of a two state solution.
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