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Netanyahu needs to button up on Iran deal

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Throwing a tantrum since the P5+1 [U.S., U.K, France, Russian, China and Germany] signed a deal with Iran Nov. 22 to curb its nuclear program, 64-year-old Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues his off-the-wall warnings comparing the deal to the Munich Accord before WW II. Netanyahu’s constant Nazi comparisons have worn thin even with members of his own parliamentary coalition. “I think we have to lower the flames with the Americans,” said 50-year-old Finance Minister Yair Lapid, head of Israel’s centrist Yesh Atid party. “This confrontation isn’t good and it also doesn’t serve our goal,” referring to improved Israeli security. Speaking at a World Without Zionism conference Oct. 30, 2005, Ahamadinejad, quoting the late Ayatollah Khomenei, calling for Israel to be “wiped off the map.” Netanyahu interprets Ahmandinejad’s hostile rhetoric as an “existential threat.”

Since Ahmadinejad’s words received so much attention in 2005, he made matters worse Dec. 11, 2006, hosting a Holocaust deniers conference in Tehran. Netanyahu’s fixation on Ahmadinejad’s propaganda continues to set Israeli foreign policy. Rejecting the Nov. 22 accord with Iran, Netanyahu sees it as the same kind of Nazi-like appeasement before WW II. It’s time for other Israeli politicians, like Lapid, to denounce Netanyahu’s twisted thinking about Iran, especially after moderate Hassan Rouhani took over as president Aug. 4, 2013. Instead of Netanyahu applauding Iran’s change of leadership, Netanyahu continues the same hostile claptrap against Iran, ignoring very significant changes at the top of Iranian leadership. With the P5+1 signing on to a new deal with Tehran, it’s time for Netanyahu to show gratitude for the progress and stop beating the war drums.

Since the Eisenhower administration in the 1950s, the U.S. helped build the Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi’s nuclear program. Only after Ayatollah Khomenei’s 1979 Islamic Revolution has the U.S. expressed concerns over Iran’s nuclear program. Ahmadinejad’s anti-Israel speeches didn’t help Iran’s goal of becoming a nuclear power. Numerous times during his eight years in office [2005-2013], Ahmadinejad played to the Islamic street, relentlessly attacking Israel and Zionism. Had he refrained from the insults and attacks, Netanyahu would be less concerned about Iran’s nuclear program, busy refining uranium for “peaceful purposes.” Urging Netanyahu to tone down his rhetoric with the P5+1 deal, Lapid thinks Netanyahu hurts Israeli national security. “This is the best way to do it and so it has always been,” said Lapid. “You sit behind closed doors and speak about it quietly.”

Isolated now on Iran without U.S.-backing, Netanyahu can only fume about taking “tougher” steps to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Netanyahu spends far too much time beating a dead horse on Iran’s real atomic intent. Whether or not Netanyahu—or any other country—believes Iran seeks “the bomb,” making Iran an “existential threat” as Israel’s official position goes over the top. Rhetoric from a now retired hothead hardly constitutes an “existential threat,” whether or not Iran ever gets “the bomb.” Tel Aviv University’s Democracy Institute Peace Index showed that 77 percent of Israelis believe that the recent peace deal won’t dissuade Iran from seeking nuclear bombs. Netanyahu’s propaganda hurts the Israeli public by exaggerating Iran’s nuclear threat. Even if Iran eventually gets the bomb, there’s no reason to believe that the Mullah-based government would attack Israel.

Whether admitted to or not by Netanyahu, Israel boasts one of the largest Persian immigrant populations on the planet. Many current Persian Israelis routinely visit their Jewish relatives in Tehran and other Iranian cities. Despite the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran has never shown, in its history, the kind of anti-Semitism or anti-Zionism spewed out by Ahmadinejad. Educated in the U.S. and a graduate of MIT, Netanyahu knows there’s now substance to his “existential threat” argument, other that pandering to his Likud’s party’s extreme right wing. Comparing the current leadership in Iran to Nazi Germany in the 1930s is laughable. Iran hasn’t taken one inch of territory beyond its borders. It’s been historically the victim of numerous invasions, creating one of the most diverse populations in the Middle East. If Netanyahu could get a reality check, he’d find Iran’s new leadership a breath of fresh air.

Toning down the rhetoric isn’t really necessary for the U.S. and Israel to continue its long historic friendship. Netanyahu’s propaganda about Iran being an “existential threat” hurts Israelis more than his relationship to the White House. Israeli politicians need to help Netanyahu to come up to speed on changes in Iran. While Iran’s Supreme Spiritual Leader Ayatollah Khamenei still makes occasional gaffes like Ahmadinejad, Rouhani and his 52-year-old U.S.-educated Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have shown only goodwill toward improving relations with the U.S. Netanyahu’s preposterous comparisons to Nazi Germany only hurt his—and Israel’s—credibility on the world stage. Every responsible world leader and diplomat knows that the Nov. 22 deal with Iran is a step in the right direction. Netanyahu needs to button up or start thinking about retirement.

About the Author

John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.

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