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Sunday, March 01, 2015

Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander

Just a reminder....

July 24, 2008, the middle of a US election campaign.

More here.

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Obama says he'll veto bill giving Congress a say on Iran

Maybe this will make all those people who think they can compromise with Obama think again. The White House announced on Saturday night that the President will veto a bill currently making its way through Congress which would stop Der Fuhrer from suspending sanctions against Iran without Congressional vote.
"The president has been clear that now is not the time for Congress to pass additional legislation on Iran.  If this bill is sent to the president, he will veto it," said Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the White House's National Security Council.
The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act would require to submit to Congress the text of any agreement within five days of concluding a final deal with Iran. The bill would also prohibit Obama from suspending or waiving sanctions on Iran passed by Congress for 60 days after a deal.
Meehan said United States "should give our negotiators the best chance of success, rather than complicating their efforts." 
Republican Senator Bob Corker, one of the bipartisan group of sponsors of the bill, said it was "disappointing that the president feels he is the only one who speaks for the citizens of our country." 
The questions are whether the Democrats will also recognize Obama's arrogance and whether the Congress will stand up to him and override the veto. There is no compromising with this President - at least not if you're the US Congress or a putative US ally.

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This one speaks for itself

But yes, Susan Rice fits right into the Obama administration. That's the entire administration's attitude.

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Why I'm not crying too much over Leonard Nimoy

I was never a Trekkie but it was kind of hard to miss the passing of Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek's Mr. Spock) this weekend. Over the past few years, Nimoy has gotten a lot of positive press in the Jewish community for incorporating the Jewish priestly blessing sign into Star Trek (a fact that largely came to light due to the Obama campaign's use of the gesture as a 'sign of progress' in 2008).

Alas, there was another side of Nimoy which makes me think of him less fondly. In 2011, Nimoy wrote a letter calling for the division of Jerusalem.

The Americans for Peace Now (APN) organization published Tuesday a letter written by actor Leonard Nimoy, best known for his role as Spock in the original Star Trek series and movies, in which the actor supports the establishment of a two-state solution.
The 80-year-old actor called upon the American people to support the peace initiative.

"I reach out to you as someone who is troubled to see the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians continue apparently without an end in sight," Nimoy wroe.

"In fact, there is an end in sight. It's known as the two-state solution - a secure, democratic Israel as the Jewish State alongside an independent Palestinian state. Even Israel's nationalist Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, has come to see this as the shape of the future. The problem is how to reach that end point. It's something we should be concerned about - not only as world citizens, but as Americans."
He went on to write that he supports the division of Jerusalem, mentioning 50 other prominent Israelis, including former heads of the Mossad, the Shin Bet and the military who support a two-state solution.

"There is a sizable number of influential voices in Israel saying the same thing… a call for two states for two nations. Their plan includes a Palestinian state alongside Israel with agreed-upon land swaps. The Palestinian-populated areas of Jerusalem would become the capital of Palestine; the Jewish-populated areas the capital of Israel."

"I'm a strong supporter of APN and the work it does," Nimoy wrote. "Peace Now's activities and programs… keep peace on the world's agenda… Like those Israelis who issued the peace plan, the members of Peace Now have their boots on the ground. They serve in Israel's military reserves and see every day what life is like without a negotiated peace with the Palestinians." 
There's more. Read the whole thing.

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Where's Hillary? Netanyahu doesn't want you to ask

After the Sabbath started on Friday, the Emergency Committee for Israel, which is based in the United States, circulated this advertisement asking where Hillary Clinton is in the current controversy over a deal with Iran. If you watch the political talk shows on Sunday morning in the US, you are likely to see it.

Let's go to the videotape.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Netanyahu's office condemned the ad, along with a full-page ad against Susan Rice that was placed in Saturday's New York Times by Rabbi Shmuely Boteach (ad below followed by story).

Susan Rice's Blind Spot for Genocide

"We condemn these ads and oppose personal attacks of every kind," Netanyahu's office said, shortly before the prime minister's scheduled flight to Washington where he was to address Congress this week. "We have no connection to these ads and we believe that the discourse on the Iranian issue must remain to the point."
Netanyahu is really trying to walk a tightrope here....

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Breakthrough in the P 5+1 talks with Iran?

@Haaretz 's @BarakRavid has details on why a deal between the P 5+1 and Iran might be possible.
The Iranians surprised the representatives of the six powers when they presented their own alternative proposal, the diplomats said.
That proposal included, for the first time, concessions regarding their stockpile of enriched uranium, as well as a bid to cut the number of old-generation centrifuges by one third.
The Iranians proposed they keep 6,000 centrifuges out of the 9,400 for the first 10 years of the agreement, and keep 500 kilograms of their low-enriched uranium, or, alternatively, to operate 6,500 centrifuges and only retain 300 kilograms of their low-enriched uranium, the diplomats said. After 10 years, with only five years left on the agreement, the Iranian proposal would gradually increase the number of centrifuges to the number they have today, the diplomats added.
But proponents of a deal should not be celebrating just yet.
However, among the unresolved issues is the Iranian demand that all sanctions be lifted immediately upon signing the agreement, whereas the United States and the other powers want the sanctions lifted gradually if Iran is seen to be meeting its obligations.
Another stumbling block is Iran’s continuing refusal of the world powers’ demand to fully open all aspects of its military nuclear program to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Commission.
The diplomats say that, considering the issues still in dispute, it is difficult to imagine the parties coming to an agreement by March 30. If such an agreement does emerge, because of an Iranian and American need to show progress, it will be a general document of principles only and will not include details on the outstanding bones of contention.
Meanwhile, Iran apparently has no intention of giving up.
Iran's Revolutionary Guard on Friday announced it has test fired a "new strategic weapon" in the final day of a large-scale naval and air defense drill, saying the system would play a key role in any future battle against the United States.

The claim was a new show of force by Iran just weeks ahead of a deadline for reaching a deal over its nuclear program with the U.S. and other global powers.
Iran announced the test on the final day of military drills it is calling "Great Prophet 9." The exercises are being held near the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic waterway through which about a fifth of the world's oil passes.
Iran often holds live-fire war games and frequently boasts of advances in its weaponry that cannot be independently verified. The latest drill, which included a simulated attack on an American aircraft carrier, appears to be aimed at sending a message that Iran has no intention of backing down to the U.S. in the nuclear talks.
Adm. Ali Fadavi, the Republican Guard's naval chief, said the new weapon would be critical in any future naval war against the U.S.
Of course, strategic weapons aren't part of the P 5+1 negotiations.

I want to go back and address Barak Ravid's last line:
“The challenge is for those who oppose the agreement like Netanyahu. They must present an alternative that will produce better results,” a senior U.S. official said over the weekend.
Really? Silly me. I thought even Obama believed that no deal is better than a bad deal

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Report: Israel aborted 2014 mission against Iran because Obama threatened to shoot down planes

A report in a Kuwaiti newspaper that has not been confirmed by any other source claims that President Obama forced Israel to abort a 2014 mission to destroy Iran's nuclear capability by threatening to shoot down the planes.
Al-Jarida newspaper quoted "well-placed" sources as saying that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had taken a decision to carry out airstrikes against Iran's nuclear program after consultations with his minister of defense Moshe Yaalon and foreign minister Avigdor Liberman in the presence of top security commanders.

The decision came, according to al-Jarida, after Israel revealed that the United States and Iran had been involved in secret talks over Iran’s nuclear program and were about to sign an agreement in that regard behind Israel's back.

According to the report, Netanyahu and his commanders agreed after four nights of deliberations to task the Israeli army's chief of staff Beni Gants to prepare a qualitative operation against Iran's nuclear program. In addition, Netanyahu and his ministers decided to do whatever they could do to thwart a possible agreement between Iran and the White House because such an agreement is, allegedly, a threat to Israel's security.

The sources added that Gants and his commanders prepared the requested plan and that Israeli fighter jets trained for several weeks in order to make sure the plans would work successfully. Israeli fighter jets even carried out experimental flights in Iran's airspace after they managed to break through radars.

However, an Israeli minister "who has good ties with the US administration revealed Netanyahu's plans to Secretary of State John Kerry" and as a result Obama then threatened to shoot down Israeli jets before they could reach their targets in Iran.
I would take this one with a grain of salt. Former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz was a known opponent of striking Iran, at least in 2012. 

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Black pastors slam Congressional Black Caucus plan to boycott Netanyahu

A group of prominent black pastors has slammed the Congressional Black Caucus for its plan to boycott (I've heard that they actually plan to walk out during the speech) Prime Minister Netanyahu's address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday.
“The thing to me that makes no sense is why the Congressional Black Caucus has teamed up with this current administration against Israel,” said Pastor Dexter D. Sanders of the Rock Center for Transformation in Orlando, Florida.
“And yes, black caucus, I’m saying you have gone against Israel when you decide to protest the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, from coming and speaking on the behalf of the nation of Israel,” Mr. Sanders said. “That is a slap in the face to the people of Israel, and not only that, it’s a slap in the face to God. And not only that, it’s also a slap in the face of all Bible-believing African-American people in this country.”
The Christian pastors, representing churches nationwide from California to New York, delivered an often fiery defense on behalf of the speech at Thursday’s press conference at the National Press Club, organized by the Center for Urban Renewal and Education.
Pastor Cecil Blye of More Grace Ministries in Louisville, Kentucky, dismissed suggestions that the House violated protocol by extending the invitation to weigh in on U.S. negotiations with Iran.
“Charges from some members of the United States Congress about the breaking of protocol are no more than a very red herring,” Mr. Blye said. “The American people need to hear Israel’s voice on this urgent matter now. If one side of the aisle can facilitate this, so be it.”
Critics have accused Mr. Netanyahu of using the speech to boost his party’s chances in the March 10 Israeli election. Some House members have asked Mr. Netanyahu to delay his speech until after the vote, but many pastors said they were alarmed by any effort to undermine the prime minister at a time when Israel faces an existential threat in the form of a potentially nuclear Iran.
Israel knows and understands Iran better than the rest of the world. This is not the time to involve ourselves in petty political maneuvering designed to embarrass our friend,” said Pastor Stephen Broden of the Fair Park Bible Fellowship in Dallas.
Pastor Carlton Smith of the Antioch Fellowship Assembly in Cleveland recounted how Jews had stood alongside black Americans in their fight for civil rights.
“They stood and marched with us in our struggle then, and we must stand with them in the face of their enemy now,” Mr. Smith said.
Read the whole thing. I hope this means that more Americans are starting to get it.

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Obama preemptively attacks Netanyahu, even the NY Times doesn't buy it

The White House on Friday sent an anonymous official to 'brief' reporters with answers to what the President anticipates that Prime Minister Netanyahu will say on Tuesday, but the attack was so transparent that even the New York Times saw through it (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).
But the American officials speaking Friday avoided directly answering some questions about important outcomes of the agreement still being negotiated.
Asked whether the accord would guarantee that Iran would remain at least a year away from being able to produce enough fuel for a single nuclear weapon, a senior official said that the agreement was still under negotiation and that it was not yet clear how long the accord might last. He noted that some “transparency measures” that might provide insight into the inner workings of Iran’s nuclear activities might be in effect for an “extended period of time.”
Several news organizations, including The New York Times, reported this week that Iran’s capacity to produce enriched uranium would be sharply limited for at least a decade under a phased accord. But Tehran would be able to build up its capacity again in the last years of an agreement. That suggested that in those final years of a deal, Iran could move closer to where it is today — two or three months away from being able to produce a bomb’s worth of material, rather than the required year that the administration says is its bottom line for the first phase of an agreement.
The officials were also vague about whether, and how quickly, Iran would have to answer a dozen questions from the International Atomic Energy Agency about research it is suspected of carrying out on nuclear designs — what the agency calls the “possible military dimensions” of Iran’s program. The I.A.E.A., the United Nations’ inspection agency, said again last week that Iran stonewalled inspectors on answering most of its questions, which the Iranians insist are based on fabricated evidence.
[T]he concerns voiced by Mr. Netanyahu are also shared by Saudi Arabia and other Arab states that are regional rivals of Iran. Mr. Kerry plans to meet with King Salman of Saudi Arabia and other Arab officials over the next week to try to reassure them about the agreement.
While the United States has taken the lead in the nuclear talks with the Iranians, the negotiating partners also include France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China. European officials have suggested in recent days that an agreement is closer than the “50-50” assessment by Obama administration officials.
 What could go wrong?

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Egypt gets what Europe doesn't

One month after an Egyptian court branded Hamas' 'military wing' a terrorist organization, a second Egyptian court has branded the entire organization a terrorist group.
Hamas slammed the decision calling it a “stain on Egypt’s reputation.”
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the ruling has turned the Palestinian people into the enemy of Egypt and Israel, its friend. He accused the Egyptian court of trying to blame outside forces for the internal unrest.
Last week, state-run newspaper al-Ahram accused Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood of conspiring to overthrow the Egyptian regime within the next few years.
The newspaper quoted “informed sources” who accused Hamas’s military wing of coordinating plans with the Brotherhood to hit Egyptian military targets and vital installations and distribute footage of the attacks in order to lower national morale. They claimed that the two groups planned to spread rumors of an Islamic State presence in Egypt in order to sow panic among the population.
Hamas and the Brotherhood thus hoped to spread fear and disappointment with the Egyptian armed forces, the sources alleged, while also working behind the scenes, using agents in the government to disrupt internal services and erode trust in the regime.
On February 6 hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated outside Egypt’s diplomatic mission in Gaza City to protest the ruling outlawing Hamas’s armed wing. Protesters waved green Hamas flags and chanted in support of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades: “Qassam are the pride of the nation, not terrorists!”
Al-Jazeera adds (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).
The verdict resulted from two separate private suits filed by two lawyers against the de facto rulers of the Gaza Strip.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Ghazi Hamad, a deputy foreign minister, rejected the court decision as "very dangerous."
"They are now saying that the [Palestinian] resistance and struggle against the occupation is a crime," he said.
Mustafa Barghouti, a senior Palestinian official who is neither from Hamas or Fatah, told Al Jazeera in a separate interview that the verdict "is a very unwise decision" that carries political complication.
"Hamas is part of the Palestinian national unity movement, and this decision is not useful."
Being part of the 'Palestinian resistance' apparently no longer provides immunity from lawsuits in Egypt, and that's good news. But this could also have serious repercussions.
Saturday's ruling comes just days after Egypt adopted a new anti-terrorism law allowing the authorities to close the premises of any declared "terrorist" organisation, and to freeze its assets as well as those of its members.
It couldn't happen to a nicer group.

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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Why Netanyahu is suddenly standing up and fighting

Shavua tov, a good week to everyone.

With Prime Minister Netanyahu heading to Washington this week, Caroline Glick looks at why a Prime Minister who kowtowed to Obama for the better part of six years is suddenly standing up and fighting
[T]oday Netanyahu, the serial accommodator, is putting everything on the line. He will not accommodate. He will not be bullied. He will not be threatened, even as all the powers that have grown used to bringing him to his knees – the Obama administration, the American Jewish Left, the Israeli media, and the Labor party grow ever more shrill and threatening in their attacks against him.

As he has made clear in daily statements, Netanyahu is convinced that we have reached a juncture in our relations with the Obama administration where accommodation is no longer possible.

Obama’s one policy that Netanyahu has never acquiesced to either publicly or privately is his policy of accommodating Iran.

Since Obama’s earliest days in office, Netanyahu has warned openly and behind closed doors that Obama’s plan to forge a nuclear deal with Iran is dangerous. And as the years have passed, and the lengths Obama is willing to go to appease Iran’s nuclear ambitions have been left their marks on the region, Netanyahu’s warnings have grown stronger and more urgent.

Netanyahu has been clear since his first tenure in office in the 1990s, that Iran’s nuclear program – as well as its ballistic missile program – constitutes a threat to Israel’s very existence. He has never wavered from his position that Israel cannot accept an Iran armed with nuclear weapons.

Until Obama entered office, and to an ever escalating degree until his reelection in 2012, preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons has been such an obvious imperative among both Israelis and Americans that Netanyahu’s forthright rejection of any nuclear deal in which Iran would be permitted to maintain the components of its nuclear program was uncontroversial. In some Israeli circles, his trenchant opposition to Iran’s acquisition of nuclear capabilities was the object of derision, with critics insisting that he was standing strong on something uncontroversial while buckling on issues like negotiations with the Palestinians, where he should have stood strong.

But now we are seeing that far from being an opportunist, Netanyahu is a leader of historical dimensions. For the past two years, in the interest of reaching a deal, Obama has enabled Iran to take over Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. For the first time since 1974, due to Obama’s policies, the Golan Heights is an active front in the war against Israel, with Iranian military personnel commanding Syrian and Hezbollah forces along the border.

Iran’s single-minded dedication to its goal of becoming a regional hegemon and its commitment to its ultimate goal of destroying the US is being enabled by Obama’s policies of accommodation. An Iran in possession of a nuclear arsenal is an Iran that can not only destroy Israel with just one or two warheads. It can make it impossible for Israel to respond to conventional aggression carried out by terrorist forces and others operating under an Iranian nuclear umbrella.

Whereas Israel can survive Obama on the Palestinian front by stalling, waiting him out and placating him where possible, and can even survive his support for Hamas by making common cause with the Egyptian military and the government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, the damage Obama’s intended deal with Iran will cause Israel will be irreversible. The moment that Obama grants Iran a path to a nuclear arsenal – and the terms of the agreement that Obama has offered Iran grant Iran an unimpeded path to nuclear power – a future US administration will be hard-pressed to put the genie back in the bottle.

Read the whole thing.

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Friday, February 27, 2015

Why Obama is making such a big deal out of Netanyahu's speech

The reason President Obama has manufactured a crisis in US-Israel relations over Prime Minister Netanyahu's address to a joint session of Congress has nothing to do with breaches of protocol or interference in Israel's election campaign. According to Elliott Abrams, the national security adviser in the Bush administration, Obama is hoping to permanently damage American support for Israel.
I well remember how we in the Bush White House handled the poor personal relations between the president and French president Jacques Chirac. In 2004-2005 especially, the two men did not get along (arguing mostly about Iraq and just plain disliking each other as well) but we wanted to prevent their poor personal chemistry from damaging bilateral relations. So National Security Advisor Condi Rice in 2004, and then her successor Steve Hadley in 2005, set up a work-around. The French National Security Advisor Maurice Gourdault-Montagne traveled to Washington almost every month and came to the White House. There the French ambassador to the U.S., Jean-David Levitte, joined him for meetings with key NSC, DOD, and State Department officials. In 2005, Secretary of State Rice would come over from State to join Hadley and several of us on the NSC staff, and in the course of a half-day we would review every issue facing the United States and France. It was a serious time commitment for the American and French officials, but that is because we were determined to quarantine bad personal chemistry and prevent it from infecting the entire relationship—a goal set by President Bush himself.
Quite obviously, President Obama has no such goal. Israeli officials have complained to me for several years about the lack of contacts and communications with the White House. Susan Rice has determined that her job is to make bilateral relations worse, and has established no relationship with her Israeli counterpart Yossi Cohen. So the problem is not just bad chemistry at the top; it is an administration that has decided to create a tense and negative relationship from the top down.
One reason, as noted, is the hope that tension with America can lead to Netanyahu’s defeat in the March 17 election.  The second reason is Iran policy. The administration is desperately seeking a deal with Iran on terms that until recently were unacceptable to a broad swath of Democrats as well as Republicans. One after another, American demands or “red lines” have been abandoned. Clearly the administration worries that Israeli (not just Netanyahu, but Israeli) criticisms of the possible Iran nuclear deal might begin to reverberate. So it has adopted the tactic of personalizing the Israeli critique. Arguments that are shared across the Israeli political spectrum—that the likely Iran deal says nothing about Iranian ballistic missile development, says nothing about Iranian warhead development, does not require that Iran meet IAEA demands that it account for past warhead work, allows Iran thousands of centrifuges, will allow Iran to escape all monitoring and limitations after perhaps ten years—are attributed solely to Netanyahu and his election campaign. So Democrats are told they must oppose such arguments, and stiff Netanyahu, lest they contribute to his reelection. Clever, in a way, but of course completely misleading. And irresponsible when it comes to the deadly issue of Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
The third Obama administration reason for building up this crisis is also deadly serious: it is to use the current tension to harm Israel’s support in the United States permanently. All opinion polls in the last several years show a partisan edge in support: overall support for Israel is steady and high, but its composition is changing. More and more Republicans support Israel, and the gap between Democratic and Republican support levels is growing. President Obama acts as if he sees this as a terrific development, one that should be enlarged as much as possible before he leaves office. That way he would leave behind not just an Iran deal, but weakened support for Israel on Iran and everything else.  Support for Israel would become less of a bipartisan matter and more a divisive issue between the two parties. It is not hard to envision Obama in retirement joining Jimmy Carter as a frequent critic of Israel, pushing the Democratic party to move away from its decades of very strong support for the Jewish state.
Read the whole thing. Unfortunately, this makes too much sense.

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Look this one up in your Funk and Wagnall's

Heh (Hat Tip: Jack W).


Why a bad deal is worse than no deal

Hat Tip for the graphic to Yair Rosenberg.

Robert Joseph and William Tobey review a long list of concessions that the United States and the P 5+1 have made to Iran in the negotiations over Iran's nuclear program. They sum up that list as follows:
The greatest concession in the negotiations has been the abandonment of the original U.S. goal of preventing Iran from having a nuclear-weapons capability. This was a consistent and firm position of the Bush administration. It was also the position of the Obama administration until November 2013, when it was given up to secure Iran’s consent to the Joint Plan of Action. Soon after that, Secretary of State Kerry described the new U.S. goal as taking Iran’s “breakout time” from two months to six to twelve months — as if we would know when the clock began, and as if we could do something effective to stop the breakout within that timeframe. The reality is that we have traded permanent concessions for temporary restrictions that will leave Iran as a threshold nuclear state able to build a nuclear weapon whenever it decides to do so. When the deal ends, Iran can openly go to the brink of nuclear weapons with the blessing of the international community.
Joseph and Tobey then go on to explain why a bad deal is worse than no deal (something that even President Obama admitted a while back before he started to spin the story). 
The Obama administration will almost certainly try to portray its nuclear deal with Iran as better than no deal, and will accuse those who oppose the agreement as choosing war over peace. Nothing could be further from the truth. A bad deal is far worse than no deal. A bad deal leaves Iran with a nuclear-weapons capability, which would be far more destabilizing than a return to tough sanctions. A bad deal undermines the IAEA’s attempts to get to the bottom of Iran’s covert weapons work. A bad deal undermines the Nonproliferation Treaty, leading to additional dangers around the world. A bad deal is a step toward conflict and more nuclear proliferation in a region of vital U.S. interest. Preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear-weapons capability is the surest way to prevent war and preserve peace. To that end, the negotiators should return to the table insisting upon limits that will permanently block Iran’s paths to nuclear weapons and resolve the IAEA’s concerns about Tehran’s nuclear-weapons work as a condition of an agreement. The real choice is not between the administration’s deal and war, but between preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and capitulation.
Prime Minister Netanyahu believes that the West has thrown in the towel and given up on stopping Iran.
In his remarks, Netanyahu said that the greatest challenge Israel faces is “the threat of Iran arming itself with nuclear weapons with a declared goal of annihilating us.”
“From the agreement that is forming, it appears that they (world powers) have given up on that commitment (to thwart Iran) and are accepting that Iran will gradually, within a few years, develop capabilities to produce material for many nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said. “They might accept this but I am not willing to accept this.”
That's undoubtedly part of what the Prime Minister will tell Congress on Tuesday. And if you sense a veiled threat of military action from Netanyahu, you're probably right. 

But Israel is not the only country that's worried enough about Iran to contemplate military action. So is Saudi Arabia. Or they're at least contemplating letting Israel fly over their territory to attack Iran.
Riyadh’s only condition is that Israel make some kind of progress in peace talks with the Palestinians, Channel 2 reported Tuesday, citing an unnamed senior European source.
“The Saudi authorities are completely coordinated with Israel on all matters related to Iran,” the European official in Brussels said.
The report claimed the Saudi authorities had made their position clear in various unspecified diplomatic discussions on the matter.
“The Saudis have declared their readiness for the Israeli Air Force to overfly Saudi air space en route to attack Iran if an attack is necessary,” the TV report said. All that they ask is “some kind of progress” on the Palestinian issue.
Being able to use Saudi airspace would allow Israeli planes a shortcut to reach Iran without having to fly around the Persian Gulf, taking up precious time and fuel.
According to the dispatch, Israel and Saudi Arabia also share intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program at a very intimate level and the Saudis are no less worried by details coming out of the Geneva talks than Israeli leaders, who have loudly spoken out against the talks.
That doesn't sound like the Saudis are asking for a whole lot - and if push comes to shove and the 'Palestinians' won't agree to anything (as is usually the case), I would bet that the condition will be dropped. 

Wouldn't it be ironic if anti-nuke Leftist Barack Hussein Obama perpetrated a war over Iran's nuclear capability? (I'm specifically not referring to it as a nuclear war, because I believe that Israel will try to stop Iran - with or without US support - before Iran has a nuclear weapons capability). 

What could go wrong?

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Obama backs down - sending Rice and Power to AIPAC

It's about time.

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Democratic Senators won't say whether they're attending

Josh Rogin and Eli Lake report that many Democratic Senators, who feel caught between their loyalty to Barack Hussein Obama and their duties to their voters, are not saying whether they will attend Prime Minister Netanyahu's address to a joint session of Congress next Tuesday.
We spoke with almost a dozen Democratic Senators Tuesday who said they still haven’t decided. Among them is Senate Intelligence Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein of California, who wrote a letter (with Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois) Monday to Netanyahu asking him to meet Democrats separately in their offices while he is Washington.
“I won’t make a decision on that for a while,” she told us, insisting there was no organized Democratic boycott. “But it does mean that I would like an opportunity to sit down and talk to him rather than listening to a speech of red lines. It isn’t a boycott, it's individuals making up their own minds. There is no boycott.”
Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee subcommittee that covers the Middle East, told us Tuesday he also is still weighing whether to attend the speech and he acknowledged that he is getting calls from his supporters in Connecticut encouraging him to go.
“I haven’t decided yet. This is a breach of protocol not a breach of policy, so I’m still trying to make sure I’m not making more of this than it deserves to be,” he said. “A lot of us are very angry and I think we’ve got to figure out how serious of an issue this really is.”
Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia declined to say whether he would attend: “I think the speech should be postposed. I’m just going to leave it there for now.”
Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey wouldn't say anything on the matter. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon said he was “expecting to” attend but wasn’t 100 percent sure. Senator Chris Coons of Delaware said he would make up his mind after meeting with the Israeli ambassador.
Nonetheless, many Democratic leaders have signaled they will attend. The list includes House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and, if he is physically able while recovering from surgery, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Senate Armed Services Committee member Bill Nelson of Florida will also be there.
It's tough having to answer to your constituents, isn't it? Here's a prediction: In the end, other than the Congressional Black Caucus and some of the more virulent J Street recipients, every last one of the Democrats will show up. They're not going to risk their seats to satisfy an unpopular President who is in the second half of his second term.

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Hmmm.... Lapid: We won't recommend Left form next government

For the Hebrew impaired, the tweet above from Makor Rishon columnist Haggai Segal says "[Yesh Atid party leader Yair] Lapid claims that his words were taken out of context, but the recording of the interview with Makor Rishon proves that he said 'you won't find me recommending [that] the Left [form the next government].' 'And Buzi [Herzog] is the Left,' we asked. 'Yes.'

The way Israel's government works is that after the elections, the President calls in the leader of each party and asks who should be given the first opportunity to try to form a government. The President then charges the leader of the party who seems most likely to succeed to form a coalition. That's why sometimes, even if a party has the most votes, it will not be asked to form the government


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Abu Mazen nixes UN resolution calling for 'Palestinian Authority' rule in Gaza

(Linked article in tweet is in Hebrew. Short summary below).

The resolution was proposed in September right after Operation Protective Edge. Its goal was to ensure a stable cease fire between Hamas and Israel. But Abu Mazen saw it as a trap. He believed that if the 'Palestinian Authority' went into Gaza, he would have a fight with Hamas and the 'Palestinian' public would turn against him. If his forces went into Gaza and did not have a fight with Hamas, he believed that Israel would blame him every time Hamas shot a rocket. Abu Mazen also believed that the 'Palestinian Authority' going into Gaza would end the 'reconciliation' talks between Fatah and Hamas.

The resolution also called for funds to reconstruct Gaza. De facto, since a donors' meeting in October, very little money has been collected for that purpose.

One has to question whether Abu Mazen ever intends to unify the 'West Bank' and Gaza under his rule.

End of summary. My take. It's really quite simple. Abu Mazen prefers living to being in charge and having to meet expectations. If this ever happened, he'd be assassinated within a week.

I don't know whose idea this was, but I could have told you in a New York minute that Abu Mazen would never agree to it.

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Sense or nonsense?

Trying to make sense out of the fight over Prime Minister Netanyahu's address to Congress, Mitchell Bard spouts a lot of nonsense.
Netanyahu’s decision to speak before Congress still makes little sense. In addition to angering Obama and Democrats in Congress,
Obama was 'angry' at Israel long before Netanyahu decided to come and speak. Look at the history of this relationship. Obama's bona fides as a supporter of Israel were being questioned long before Netanyahu became Prime Minister in 2009. Obama is angry at Israel because it exists. Neither Binyamin Netanyahu nor anyone else in Israel did anything to bring about that anger. Netanyahu's speech has nothing to do with this. Recall that Obama called Netanyahu chickens**t long before this speech was ever announced.

As to the supposed anger of Democrats, mainstream Democrats - like Menendez and Schumer and Dershowitz - haven't expressed a whole lot of anger. The anger comes from the Congressional Black Caucus (which brands any questioning of Obama as 'racism') and from Democrats who take money from J Street and other far Left organizations. Those people - and the people who vote for them - are the ones who are driving down the percentage of Democrats who sympathize with Israel. They were never in Israel's court from the start. Netanyahu's speech is just flushing them out. Even if they still insist on calling themselves 'Israel supporter.'
he has undermined the legislation that he was coming to support.
Netanyahu is not coming to speak in support of the sanctions legislation. It already has a veto proof majority once it is brought to the floor. Netanyahu is coming to speak out against making a bad deal with Iran in which all red lines are abandoned. A deal in which Iran is allowed to retain its nuclear facilities, retain its uranium enrichment plants, keep the centrifuges spinning and - yes - still get relief from sanctions. It's a deal against which most of Washington seems to be tongue-tied.
The prime minister’s speech also has an air of desperation; he apparently realizes that he cannot prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.
It's not that Netanyahu cannot prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons - it's that Obama won't let him. So yes, there is some desperation here. Netanyahu is desperate to stop Obama from officially declaring that Iran can do whatever it pleases when it comes to nuclear weapons - to leave the door open for another President or another day. Because Iran can be stopped - just not without military action, or at least a credible threat of military action. 

But Netanyahu isn't the only desperate one here. So is Obama. Obama is desperate to stop the Prime Minister he called a chickens**t from undermining what Obama believes will be his signature foreign policy achievement for his second term, if not for his entire Presidency: appeasing Iran, bringing it back into the 'family of nations' and turning it into a regional power in the Middle East which can offset Israel and force Israel to start whistling to the Arabs' tune. The fact that Obama is clearly expending far more energy on stopping Netanyahu's speech than he is on stopping Iran's drive for nuclear weapons shows that Obama is also desperate. Let's call it desperate for a legacy.

The argument here is whether Obama's Munich-like philosophy will prevail or whether Netanyahu's vision of an acknowledged Israeli right to take independent action against Iran will prevail. By stiffening opposition to the deal, both in and out of Congress, Netanyahu is increasing the (admittedly slim) likelihood that Congress will stand up to Obama and scuttle the deal. No, Netanyahu won't persuade the Schakowsky's or the Rangel's or the Durbin's, but he might give Chuck Schumer - for example - the backbone to say that he cannot in good conscience vote with the administration on this and not welch as Schumer has done in the past. And he's also increasing the likelihood that when and if Israel decides it has no choice but to act, Obama will not have the political backing to stand in the way.
it is difficult to see what purpose the prime minister’s speech will serve since he has been sounding the same alarm now for years. His views are no secret to anyone and will have no greater impact if they are presented before Congress.
That's actually not true. Most Americans could not even name the Prime Minister of Israel until this controversy started, let alone recite his views on a deal whose details are slowly coming out in the media.  Israeli opposition to the deal is the only context in which Americans are discussing the substantive problems with Obama's appeasement. Netanyahu's speech is already helping to raise the profile of opposition views to the deal. And unlike in Israel, where it is being delayed for five minutes on the bogus claim that there might be partisan thoughts, the speech is likely to be viewed live in the United States by millions.
Israel has good reason to be alarmed at the direction the nuclear talks have taken, even though it appears unlikely Iran will except any deal.
Unless you equate Iran with the 'Palestinians,' who never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, it seems to me that at this point a deal is highly likely. Obama has already conceded almost everything Iran wants.
Did Netanyahu think speaking in Congress would help his reelection campaign? Perhaps, but this shouldn’t surprise anyone. Incumbents always blur the lines between policymaking and campaigning. When Obama ran for reelection his speeches were meant to help his campaign regardless of whether they were labeled as campaign events. Furthermore, the fact that Obama reacted so angrily, as did many other Democrats, may hurt Netanyahu’s chances if Israeli voters decide that they don’t want a prime minister who has worsened ties with their principal ally.
No, this is not about the Israeli elections. I am sure that Netanyahu would have a much better chance of gaining votes by staying in Israel and campaigning. Ask Buzi Herzog.
Zionist Union co-chairman Isaac Herzog said Tuesday that he had declined AIPAC's invitation to address its conference, saying that while American Jews are very important to him, it was clear that replacing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was just as critical and his main mission now.
In a press conference with foreign media, Herzog said that Netanyahu's spin on the question of who's going to Washington has to stop. Every Israeli and American official - including the U.S. President - knows his stance against the Iranian nuclear program, Herzog added.
Herzog told the reporters that when he becomes prime minister, he will travel all over the world to preserve the security interests of the citizens of Israel – but for now, he has to decline the invitation to focus on that goal.
So who is the statesman and who is running an election campaign?

Netanyahu has only two options: He can surrender to the Iranian nuclear bomb, pretend that everything is nice with the White House until the next crisis, and echo White House propaganda that ISIS is the big problem. Or he can play the cards he has and work the only realistic opportunity to stunt Obama’s planned appeasement and preserve an Israeli military option against the Iranian weapon. Which would you choose if you were him?

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Probably inevitable: J Street Jan will skip Netanyahu speech

Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-Il) has announced that she will skip Prime Minister Netanyahu's address to a joint session of Congress next Tuesday. And she still has the gall to describe herself as an 'Israel supporter.'

I suspect that having seen one member after another of the Congressional Black Caucus announce that they will boycott Netanyahu, we will now see one recipient of J Street's Soros money after another announce that they too will boycott.

Honestly, I'm not convinced that it matters anymore who shows up and who doesn't. The real point of this speech has become for Netanyahu to be able to speak directly to the American people. It's something that both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton have done to hand-picked audiences of Israelis. Funny how no one objected then.

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Kerry blasts Netanyahu... for being wrong on Iraq

US Secretary of State John FN Kerry has blasted Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for being wrong on Iraq (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).
"Israel is safer today with the added time we have given and the stoppage of the advances in the nuclear program than they were before we got that agreement, which by the way the prime minister opposed," Kerry said during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. "He was wrong."
Kerry was later asked to address Netanyahu's criticism of a hypothetical deal with Iran as a threat to Israel.
"The prime minister was profoundly forward-leaning and outspoken about the importance of invading Iraq under George W. Bush," Kerry replied. "We all know what happened with that decision."
Really? I thought John Kerry was in favor of the war in Iraq, and believed that Saddam had nuclear weapons.

Let's go to the videotape.

Hmmm. Sounds a lot like Prime Minister Netanyahu's questions on Iran, doesn't it? Kerry used to be a bit smarter, didn't he?

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

How inconvenient: Another 'secret' Iranian enrichment plant exposed

As the Obama administration pulls out all the stops to defend its intention to sign a deal that would allow Iran to become a nuclear power, the Iranian opposition throws a crowbar into the juggernaut by exposing yet another previously undisclosed uranium enrichment plant outside of Tehran.
The specifics contained in the NCRI’s report give it credibility because they make the report easy to either verify or debunk. The report pinpoints the hidden nuclear site with satellite photography, explains its internal structuring and shows the entrances as well as the location of an elevator to access a 200-meter underground tunnel. There’s even an up-close photograph of one of the shielded doors used at the site to conceal radiation.
The secret site is called Lavizan-3 and is operated by the Ministry of Intelligence and Security. It is within a military compound so that the regime can declare it off-limits to IAEA inspectors. Construction of the site began in early 2004 and is believed to have finished in 2008 or around that time.
According to the group’s sources inside Iran, the site is used for enriching uranium and building, testing and installing advanced centrifuges that enable Iran to produce the uranium for a nuclear bomb more quickly. The centrifuges at this location are of the IR2, IR3 and IR4 types. These centrifuges can potentially cut the time needed to make bomb-grade uranium from low-enriched uranium in half, from 18-24 months to 9-12 months.
NCRI also listed the names of key personnel involved in the hidden site. One of them is Morteza Behzad, an engineer involved with the Fordo uranium enrichment site that is buried 300 feet underground and was exposed in 2009. The Treasury Department sanctioned him in 2012.
The Lavizan-3 site can only hold 3,000 centrifuges, making it unsuitable for an a civilian energy program but entirely suitable for nuclear weapons creation.
Four top nuclear experts said earlier this month that they now consider Iran to be a nuclear-ready state,  warning that Iran poses an Electro-Magnetic Pulse threat to the U.S. and its satellite launches show that it has intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the U.S.
The IAEA confirms that Iran is still not being transparent about its nuclear activity. The agency’s September 5 report stated that Iran is still denying inspectors access to the Parchin site where the regime is believed to conducted research inarguably related to nuclear weapons. The regime also continued to deny that it has worked on nuclear warheads and has not adequately addressed the IAEA’s evidence.
Read the whole thing

In other news, the White House released three new pictures of President Obama commenting on Iran's nuclear program today. 

What could go wrong?

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Oh my... Netanyahu refuses to meet with Durbin and Feinstein

Prime Minister Netanyahu has turned down a meeting with Democratic Senators Richard Durbin (Il) and Diane Feinstein (Ca) on the sidelines of his address to a joint session of Congress next week.This is from the first link.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined on Tuesday an invitation to meet with U.S. Senate Democrats during his trip to Washington next week.
"Though I greatly appreciate your kind invitation to meet with Democratic Senators, I believe that doing so at this time could compound the misperception of partisanship regarding my upcoming visit," Netanyahu wrote in a letter to Senators Richard Durbin and Dianne Feinstein obtained by Reuters.
That actually makes sense if one accepts the premise that an address to a joint session of Congress that includes both Democrats and Republicans is (or ought to be) seen as non-partisan. What Netanyahu is saying is "if I meet separately with you, I will also have to meet separately with a delegation of Republican Senators."

But as you might imagine, this has made the Democrats go ballistic
Susan E. Rice, President Obama’s national security adviser, sharply criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Tuesday over his plans to address a joint meeting of Congress next week, saying his actions had hurt his nation’s relationship with the United States.
Mr. Netanyahu’s decision to travel to Washington to deliver the speech two weeks before the Israeli elections has “injected a degree of partisanship, which is not only unfortunate, I think it’s destructive of the fabric of the relationship,” Ms. Rice said in an interview on the PBS television program “Charlie Rose.”
Come on. Does anyone seriously believe that Netanyahu showing up on March 24 would see the Democrats having no objections? Meanwhile, Durbin said he's 'disappointed.'
“We offered the prime minister an opportunity to balance the politically divisive invitation from Speaker Boehner with a private meeting with Democrats who are committed to keeping the bipartisan support of Israel strong,” Mr. Durbin said in a statement. “His refusal to meet is disappointing to those of us who have stood by Israel for decades.”
At least Durbin (effectively) admits that the Israeli elections have nothing to do with this. But since when is an invitation to address a joint session of Congress a partisan event? Since when does Congress have to ask the President's permission before inviting a foreign leader to its house? Is it not a co-equal branch of government in the United States?

Well, the answer seems to be that the joint session of Congress is becoming a partisan event since the Democrats insist on making it into one. The number of Democratic Senators and Representatives who plan to boycott Netanyahu's speech (undoubtedly under pressure from the White House) is growing.
Here is a list of the Democrats who are planning to skip the speech and those who are planning to go.

House (23)
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.) — Wrote a Jan. 29 column in The Huffington Post explaining his decision, saying the Constitution “vests the responsibility for foreign affairs in the president.”
Rep. G.K. Butterfield (N.C.) — The head of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) focused on Boehner undermining Obama in a statement and emphasized he's not urging a boycott.
Rep. Andre Carson (Ind.)
Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.) — Clyburn is the highest-ranking Democratic leader to say he’ll skip the speech.
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.): “After deliberation, I have decided I cannot in good conscience attend the Prime Minister’s speech. My decision not to attend is not a reflection of my support for Israel and its continued existence as a state and home for the Jewish people. I have always strongly supported Israel and I always will,” said Cohen in a statement.
Rep. Diana DeGette (Colo.)
Rep. Donna Edwards (Md.)
Rep. Keith Ellison (Minn.) — He is head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), a member of the CBC and the first Muslim in Congress.
Rep. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.) — Grijalva is a co-chairman of the CPC.
Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (Ill.) — A spokesman told the Chicago Sun-Times that Gutierrez has a "strong" record on Israel but called the speech "a stunt."
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.)
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (Texas) — "The Congresswoman has no plans to attend the speech at this time," a spokeswoman said.
Rep. Barbara Lee (Calif.) — A member of the CBC and former head of the CPC.
Rep. John Lewis (Ga.) — His office confirmed he’s not going but emphasized he's not organizing a formal boycott
Rep. Betty McCollum (Minn.): "In my view Mr. Netanyahu’s speech before Congress is nothing more than a campaign event hosted by Speaker Boehner and paid for by the American people," McCollum said in a statement."
Rep. Jim McDermott (Wash.) — “I do not intend to attend the speech of Bibi,” he said in an email to a Seattle newspaper.
Rep. Gregory Meeks (N.Y.) — A CBC member.
Rep. Beto O'Rourke (Texas)
Rep. Chellie Pingree (Maine)
Rep. Charles Rangel (N.Y.) — "I'm offended as an American," he said on MSNBC.
Rep. Cedric Richmond (La.)
Rep. Bennie Thompson (Miss.)
Rep. John Yarmuth (Ky.) — "We know what he is going to say," the Jewish lawmaker said in a statement.

Senate (3)
Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.) — Leahy called it a "tawdry and high-handed stunt," according to a  Vermont newspaper.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — Sanders, who caucuses with Democrats, said it’s “wrong” that Obama wasn’t consulted about the speech.
Sen. Brian Schatz (Hawaii) — “The U.S.-Israel relationship is too important to be overshadowed by partisan politics," said Schatz in a statement. "I am disappointed in the Republican leadership’s invitation of Prime Minister Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress with the apparent purpose of undermining President Obama’s foreign policy prerogatives.”
Far more Democrats have said they will attend. Read the whole thing.  Most of the Representatives on the list as not attending are Congressional Black Caucus members (who are concerned about Netanyahu's lack of 'respect' for Obama - respect that Obama has done nothing to earn) and known Leftists....

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A break in the Democratic boycott of Netanyahu

Two senior Democratic Senators are breaking from the Obama administration's boycott of Prime Minister Netanyahu. Dianne Feinstein (California) and Richard Durbin (Illinois) have asked to meet with the Prime Minister. But they're still critical of the manner in which Netanyahu was invited.
Senators Richard Durbin and Dianne Feinstein extended the invitation "to maintain Israel's dialogue with both political parties in Congress," according to a letter to the Israeli leader seen by Reuters.

"This unprecedented move threatens to undermine the important bipartisan approach towards Israel - which as long-standing supporters of Israel troubles us deeply," Durbin and Feinstein wrote.

"It sacrifices deep and well-established cooperation on Israel for short-term partisan points - something that should never be done with Israeli security and which we fear could have lasting repercussions," they said.
The two senators have not indicated publicly whether they planned to be at the Israeli leader's address, their spokesmen said.
Durbin is the No. 2 Democrat in the U.S. Senate. Feinstein, who has been in the Senate since 1992, is the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee and a senior member of the Appropriations and Judiciary committees.
The letter was sent on Monday evening. The Israeli Embassy did not have an immediate response to the invitation.
Bloomberg adds (Hat Tip: Memeorandum). 
“To maintain Israel’s dialogue with both political parties in Congress, we invite you to a closed-door meeting with Democratic senators during your upcoming visit to Washington,” Durbin and Feinstein wrote Monday. “We believe such a venue would be a wholly appropriate opportunity to discuss the range of issues that face our two countries.”

Twenty-three House Democrats urged Boehner in a letter last week to postpone the speech. They said the speaker was “using a foreign leader as a political tool against” Obama.
The House Democrats’ letter questioned whether Boehner was using Netanyahu’s appearance to persuade lawmakers to back new sanctions against Iran despite a veto threat from Obama.
To listen to the House Democrats, they don't believe it would ever be appropriate for Netanyahu to weigh in on Iran. That's just plain wrong. In the overall scheme of things, Israel has much more at stake in Iran (our very existence) than the United States has. 

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