The Speech: Preaching to the Converts

It was a vintage Netanyahu speech. The role of history was downgraded, the role of facts was elevated. Not a fiery oratory, a logical, well-crafted edifice of data and arguments, but on balance no smoking gun, at most a flashing light. This blog was critical of the speech before it was delivered, and it remains reserved after it was. It is not about the nature of the Iranian menace, something which was made brilliantly clear. It is not about the potential dangers of an agreement [if achieved], which according to all available sources basically leaves Iran with the ability to become nuclear, almost at any given time.

It was and still is about cost benefit; did the speech lessen the chances of signing a bad agreement or not, and when weighed against the damage to Israel's relations with an administration which shows a real zeal to use its veto power on many issues, surely on Iran. The PM clearly won the hearts and minds of a bipartisan majority in Congress, but that did not happen necessarily today. The Republican majority [save for one...] and most Democrats have indicated already before that they do not like the forming agreement.

The PM solidified their position by providing them with the entire arsenal of convincing arguments, but it is doubtful whether he changed the minds of those who do not buy his rhetoric, including some who were present, did not boycott and even joined the applause. There was no smoking gun, no dramatic revelation which may have led to debate based on new information, something which was not in the public domain, something that if it was stated, could have changed the entire focus of the political discourse about the agreement, putting the administration on the defense. According to unverified reports, Netanyahu does possess such information, and even intended to make use of it, but was prevented from doing so after being publicly cautioned by the administration.

Has he changed some lines, as was widely reported in Israel, in return for some secret promises from the administration to harden their positions in the negotiations? It's a possibility, but seems highly unlikely. He may have changed in order to be able to continue the dialogue with the administration, always being able to come out with such revelations at a later stage. But be that as it may, if indeed he toned down his remarks in the last minute, he showed an understanding that there could and should not be an irreversible rift with the administration over the Iran nuclear negotiations. With that we come back to the question of cost benefit. Everything that he said today could have waited until after the Israeli elections, moreover could have waited to the conclusion of the agreement, something which would then have given him the chance to come and caution from a disaster with facts on the table. According to what Netanyahu himself said, there is no time factor which is measured in days or weeks, or even few months.

Congress is still less likely now to override a presidential veto than it was before. The magical number of 67 senators seems elusive now, and without imposition of new sanctions, Congress cannot derail a bad agreement, and this is not just bad, in fact an atrocious agreement. So, IF this is the case, the question as to the validity of the speech, not its PR value [and that is important], still looms large, even after the fireworks were all used. Sure, the administration can still shy away, even at the twelfth hour, from signing the agreement, but somehow will find it difficult to do it under the impact of the speech, in order not to look weak, also not to give Netanyahu a huge political gift, as he fights for his political life.

Will the Iranians pull the chestnuts out of the fire for Israel? It's "somewhat" doubtful, as for that to happen we need a Passover miracle, not a Purim one, as we know that God hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and a repetition of that now may mean that the Iranians will reject the huge American concessions, thus enabling the administration to extricate itself from a very delicate situation. But then, go and trust the Iranians...

It may be that the last line used by Netanyahu, the one referring to Israel doing itself what it has to do if left with no choice, will be the one to materialize in the not so distant future.