Many Democrats boycotted the speech, but House Minority leader Pelosi was there, and gave her strong disapproval afterwards:
"That is why, as one who values the U.S. -- Israel relationship, and loves Israel, I was near tears throughout the prime minister's speech -- saddened by the insult to the intelligence of the United States as part of the P5 +1 nations, and saddened by the condescension toward our knowledge of the threat posed by Iran and our broader commitment to preventing nuclear proliferation."
But if we are to be honest, we have to recognize that the speech was a resounding success from Netanyahu's point of view, and it elicited several standing ovations.
And the main points he made are valid:
- Fear of Iran developing nuclear weapons
- Fear of militant Islaminization of the region, whether from ISIS or its arch-enemy, Iran and the Shiite regimes, is valid (less valid is his suggestion of Iranian support for al qaeda, since al qaeda is a resolutely Sunni organization, and one dedicated to not only overthrowing Shiite regimes, but Sunni regimes as well. It makes no sense for Iran to support them).
As progressives, it is up to us to imagine a third way. A way which preserves maximum human rights in the region, freedom of religion, and yes, secularism where possible, or at least justice where not. And of course, we must reduce the possibility of war wherever possible.
The following is a slightly updated article I first wrote in 2009. The names have changed, but not the solution, though it is harder now, because Iran's nuclear infrastructure is built-up, and would have to be somewhat, though not entirely reversed. For this to be palatable to Iran, we must offer something better in return. I believe the solution below is that offering.
Why are President Obama and
Secretary of State Kerry (formerly Clinton when this was first written) seemingly so bereft of ideas on how to handle
Iran's nuclear ambitions?
I'm not going to waste time, as so many editorialists do, on calling for a change in "tone" or for more "respect." Of course we need to incorporate both of those things.
The Obama Administration knows this very well, but talking nice and with respect will only get you so far. The problem is that it is not productive if all we ever say to Iran is: "Give up your nuclear program" to which they say "No," and to which we come back a few weeks later and say, "Well, how about now?" This will actually make us look weak and unimaginative, as the recent "bipartisanship"- with the Republicans over the stimulus bill has. (Similarly, sanctions won't work unless the world--especially China--is willing to stop buying Iranian oil, and stop shipping them refined gasoline. Iran is immune to all other sanctions). Iran is now economically weaker, as Netanyahu pointed out in his speech, but it is also unrealistic to expect regime change, as even he admitted.
We need to have a new beginning, a new framework for discussion.
To begin with, we must distinguish between Iran's legitimate desires for nuclear energy--which they are entitled to pursue as signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Agreement--and the potential for destructive use of enriched uranium for bomb-making. These are NOT the same thing, and recognition of that fact opens up a world of possibilities, which I will detail below.
But first, since everyone has talked only about the reasons why Iran should not pursue nuclear power, let me briefly state why it is in our interest that Iran does pursue nuclear power: