Policy Analysis 12 May, 2015

US-Israeli Relations in the Aftermath of Netanyahu’s Congress Speech

Mahmoud Muhareb

Mahmoud Muhareb is professor of Political Science, and has published several books, as well as other research, on Zionism, Israel, the Palestinian Question and the Arab- Israeli Conflict. Since 2001, he has been teaching political science and Israeli studies at the Institute for Area Studies at Al-Quds University, where he also served as director from 2003-2006. Prior to this, from 1990-2000, he taught political science and cultural studies at Bethlehem University, and between the years 1989-1992 he was the editor of Qadaya Research Magazine in Occupied East Jerusalem. From 1987-1990, he was director of the Research Centre in The Arab Studies Society in Occupied East Jerusalem. He received his B.A. in Political Science from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem; in 1986, he received his PhD in Political Science from the Department of Politics at Reading University, England.

Introduction

As Speaker of the United States’ House of Representatives, John Boehner’s invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address the US Congress over Iran’s nuclear project was highly controversial. Following announcement of the invitation, there was a multi-party debate in both the US and Israel. Concerns over and interests in the talk were motivated by an array of factors, many of which were unrelated to Iran or its nuclear program.

Much of the debate stemmed from the context within which the invitation was made: an ongoing squabble between the Republican Party – which holds a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate – and the leader of the Democratic Party, US President Barak Obama. Netanyahu also had his own context: an approaching election and an attempt to sabotage the Iranian nuclear deal being negotiated in Geneva with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1). Netanyahu hoped, by siding with the Republicans, to dissolve American support for the nuclear deal. At home in Israel, any progress in halting a US-Iran détente would mean a jump in popularity, ahead of elections that were set to be held two weeks after the Congress address.

This paper assesses the fallout of Netanyahu’s attempt to sabotage the deal being finalized between the P5+1 countries and Iran. It asks whether and how Netanyahu’s bid succeeded or failed, by looking in turn at the points of agreement and disagreement in policy points around a nuclear Iran for Netanyahu’s government and the US administration. It assesses US reactions to Netanyahu’s address, the debates in Israel concerning, the effect of the Netanyahu-US administration feud on the Israeli elections, and the future of US-Israeli relations.

To read this document as a PDF, please click here. This Policy Analysis was translated by the ACRPS Translation and English editing team. To read the original Arabic version, which appeared online on March 15, 2015, please click here.