‘Obama Must Satisfy Netanyahu’s Concerns’
Obama tries to downplay Netanyahu speech, but leading American and Arab media say the White House owes an explanation
While not taking a side in the debate over whether or not Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was right to address the US Congress in defiance of the White House, The Washington Post on Wednesday said President Barack Obama must nevertheless provide real answers to the Israeli leader’s “legitimate questions” regarding the Iran nuclear threat.
In his much-anticipated speech, Netanyahu noted that the deal the Obama Administration is currently negotiating with Iran would leave the latter in possession of a massive nuclear infrastructure and would put a time limit on any punitive sanctions should Tehran fail to comply.
Given those conditions, and the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) confirmation that Iran has concealed significant portions of its nuclear program, Netanyahu argued convincingly that Washington was in effect “paving Iran’s path to the bomb.”
What’s more, Israel fears Obama could spark a Middle East nuclear arms race by tacitly accepting Iran as a nuclear power.
“Rather than continuing its political attacks on Mr. Netanyahu, the [Obama] administration ought to explain why the deal it is contemplating is justified — or reconsider it,” the Post recommended.
Unsurprisingly, Obama tried to downplay what many called a “historic” speech by Netanyahu, pointing out in an interview with Reuters that “as far as I can tell, there was nothing new,” and criticizing the Israeli leader for failing to “offer any viable alternatives” to the deal he is negotiating.
US House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi was even more aggressive in her rebuttal, labeling Netanyahu’s speech “an insult to the intelligence of the United States.” Pelosi claimed to have almost cried over the perceived “condescension toward our knowledge of the threat posed by Iran.”
But the position taken by Obama and Pelosi appears to have been shared by very few outside of Iran, which likewise dismissed the Israeli leader’s address as “boring and repetitive.”
During the speech itself, Netanyahu received no fewer than 26 standing ovations, despite saying “nothing new.” And in addition to widespread accolades in the US, Netanyahu found unlikely support from the Arab press.
“Despite this being perhaps the only thing that brings together Arabs and Israelis (as it threatens them all), the only stakeholder that seems not to realize the danger of the situation is President Obama, who is now infamous for being the latest pen-pal of the Supreme Leader of the World’s biggest terrorist regime: Ayottallah Ali Khamenei,” wrote Faisal J. Abbas, editor-in-chief of the English-language website of pan-Arab news agency Al Arabiya.
A day before the speech, a leading columnist for the Saudi daily newspaper Al Jazirah said someone had to take a bold stand against “the foolish behavior of one of the worst American presidents,” and insisted that Netanyahu’s appearance before the US Congress was beneficial for all peace-loving people of the Middle East.