Scarcely a week ago I argued here that by putting his political survival ahead of every other consideration, PM Netanyahu has indeed put the quality of the US-Israel relationship at risk.
How I wish I would have been wrong, as some argued. That this transparent and self-serving stunt was a regrettable yet ultimately harmless pre-election floor show staged for the benefit of the voters back home. But how the Senate Republicans have today blasted that fantasy out of the water.
“It has come to our attention,” 47 Senate Republicans* helpfully instruct Iran’s leaders, “that you may not fully understand our constitutional system. Thus, we are writing to bring to your attention two features of our Constitution—the power to make binding international agreements and the different character of federal offices—which you should seriously consider as negotiations progress. Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement.” And since President Obama will only be in office until 2016, “the next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”
But sure, go ahead and reach an agreement with the P5+1, for whatever it’s worth. (Wink wink)
Social media is alive with adjectives deriding this unprecedented sabotage of the President’s authority to conduct foreign affairs and negotiate international agreements; “treasonous” and “treacherous” among the most oft-repeated. But Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) said everything that needed saying in his response:
“This is a cynical effort … to undermine sensitive international negotiations. It weakens America’s hand and highlights our political divisions to the rest of the world. Understand that if these negotiations fail, a military response to Iran developing their nuclear capability becomes more likely. These Republican senators should think twice about whether their political stunt is worth the threat of another war in the Middle East.”
And so Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Boehner, you have managed in one week’s time to breach the bipartisan wall of US support for Israel that has survived more-or-less intact for the past 66 years. You have politicized, for personal and partisan gain, one of the few issues in American politics that has united Democrats and Republicans across time and space. A trans-partisan relationship that has been built over the decades through the sweat and tears of a great many American leaders, both Jewish and non-Jewish.
Mr. Netanyahu, you may very well find yourself out of office within the next few weeks, but the damage of your scorched-earth campaign on US-Israel relations will haunt us for years to come. What a legacy.
*Kudos to the following Republican senators who had the integrity and good sense to not sign the letter to the Iranians: Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Dan Coats of Indiana, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Susan Collins of Maine, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.