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"NYT" and Matthews warn that Netanyahu speech to Congress could lead US to war

By       Message Philip Weiss     Permalink
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Reprinted from Mondoweiss

Bill Kristol
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The plans by the Israeli Prime Minister to address both Houses of Congress in March in order to rebut the President's call for negotiations with Iran is finally drawing the outrage it deserves. It was condemned in the last day by The New York Times, leading pundits, liberal Zionist organizations, and implicitly, in the Israeli press. Some fear that the speech could lead to war -- Chris Matthews, Susan Milligan, Jonathan Capehart and the New York Times express this fear.

More parochial voices worry that it could divide the Israel lobby, the monolithic coalition that supports Israel inside American politics, or blow up Israel's influence in the United States.

First, some of the juicy bits. Haaretz says the White House is angry; Netanyahu "spat" in Obama's face by accepting the invitation from the Republican leadership. Times of Israel:

"The White House's outrage over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plan to speak before Congress in March -- a move he failed to coordinate with the administration -- began to seep through the diplomatic cracks on Friday, with officials telling Haaretz the Israeli leader had 'spat' in President Barack Obama's face.

"'We thought we've seen everything,' the newspaper quoted an unnamed senior US official as saying. 'But Bibi managed to surprise even us.

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"'There are things you simply don't do. He spat in our face publicly and that's no way to behave. Netanyahu ought to remember that President Obama has a year and a half left to his presidency, and that there will be a price,' he said."

So Israel will suffer. Other unnamed US officials:

"'It will be difficult to trust Netanyahu in the future,' unnamed senior US officials told [Israel's] Channel 2. 'At a critical juncture that requires close cooperation on strategic matters, he preferred to advance his political interests while disrupting the correct working relationship between the two governments.'"

On Chris Matthews' MSNBC show Hardball last night, Susan Milligan of US News & World Report said that the Republicans are trying to submarine Obama's negotiations with Iran. Matthews agreed, and said that the effect of the maneuver would be to force the "worst case scenario," in which Iran develops nuclear weapons:

"Matthews: [Republicans] don't care if the talks completely break down... Then we're faced with the two terrible options. The one I know we're going to have to do, which is blow them up--

"Milligan: Right.

"Matthews: And that means a war. And we'll have to do it at some point, if we go that course. Because no president can get reelected -- elected in this country, who doesn't deal with a nuclear weapon in the hands of the Iranians. That's a fact.

"Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post: And if that happens, the American people need to understand who's responsible for the president... having to make that decision."

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I think Matthews is wrong about this, that if a nuclear weapon is a real eventuality (though many experts say that Iran has not sought to develop a nuclear weapon), and the issue were actually framed for the American people, they'd support containment of Iran. But of course that choice won't be framed. It will be the subject of lobby pressure, out of sight. Which Matthews actually acknowledges when he says there is no choice in the matter.

The New York Times editorializes, and, like Matthews, warns that Congress is "playing politics on Iran" in a "hostile" manner; and this could lead to war.

"A move by Congress to pass legislation proposing new sanctions could blow up the talks and divide the major powers that have been united in pressuring Iran. Given an excuse to withdraw from talks, Iran could accelerate its nuclear program, curbed for a year under an interim agreement, and force the United States or Israel to use military action or a cyberattack to keep Tehran from producing nuclear weapons."

The Times can't say a straight word about the lobby. All hinting:

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Philip Weiss is a longtime writer and journalist in New York. He co-edits a website on Israel/Palestine,, which he founded in order to foster the movement for greater fairness and justice for Palestinians in American foreign policy. He is currently working on a novel about the US in Australia during WW2.

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