Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress has been covered as a spectacle orchestrated (perhaps in a misguided fashion) by the conservative GOP-Likud alliance to undercut President Barack Obama's effort to reach a deal with Iran limiting that government's nuclear program. But this stunt did highlight a significant aspect of the the ongoing debate over Iran -- Netanyahu's position is extreme and unworkable: Iran should yield completely, or there will be war.
The ongoing negotiations between the United States and its allies and Iran have been a tough slog. But at the heart of the issue is a simple point: Will Iran be allowed to engage in any enrichment of uranium? Iran insists it is entitled to pursue a nuclear program, if only for civilian purposes. Netanyahu contends that if Tehran retains any nuclear program, there will be a risk that it can develop nuclear weapons with which it can threaten Israel's existence. Obama's aim is to impose severe restrictions on Iran's nuclear program to limit any ability to produce a nuclear bomb -- and to ensure that if there were to be an Iranian breakout from an agreement that it would still take Tehran some time to make a bomb. Obama wants to minimize greatly the risk of Iran going nuclear; Netanyahu wants to eliminate the risk.
The difference between these two positions is probably war.