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Nuclear ‘Agreement’ Cloud Hanging Over Netanyahu’s Visit Next Month

Jewish lobbyists are getting nervous as the date for Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s speech nears. An Orthodox lobbyist told JLNJ, on condition of anonymity that he has seen representatives on both sides of the aisle become increasingly skittish about the speech, as the Israeli election seems to be strongly influenced by events in the US, and certain members of Congress are perceived to be using the leader of another country to shape American foreign policy against the President.

Later in the day, during a press briefing at the White House, Press spokesman Josh Earnest was asked if the speech was dangerous for American-Israeli relations if Democrats potentially boycotted Netanyahu’s speech before a joint session of Congress.

Earnest said, “Individual members of Congress will have to make their own decision.” He added that as a general matter, “the President believed that it was important to uphold a broader tradition of ensuring that the strong relationship between the United States and Israel was not in any way subjugated to partisan politics in either country. One of the concerns about the breach in protocol that we’ve seen and articulated is that it might cause some to view the relationship between the US and Israel as a relationship between one political party in Israel and one political party in the United States.

“The President does not believe that would be a positive development in our relationship. And so the President is certainly doing everything that he can to try to avoid that. And that—in fact, is one of the reasons that the President said he will not meet with the Israeli Prime Minister when he is in town the first week in March, because the President does not want to leave anybody with even the appearance of interfering in the Israeli elections scheduled for just two weeks later.”

What is at stake is a pitch to strengthen Iranian sanctions at a time it seems that the US is trying to convince Iran to control the situations in Syria, Iraq and the IS. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told reporters that a deal is in the works and AP reported a compromise was reached that allowed Iran to keep most of its uranium—enriching its technology while reducing its potential to make nuclear weapons.

Israeli as well as U.S. lawmakers are getting very nervous despite President Barack Obama’s reassurances. But despite attempts to cut off Iran’s paths to potentially build the bomb, part of the agreement says that in ten years they would be permitted to produce weapons grade uranium. They are also operating and negotiating to keep approximately 7,000 centrifuges.

Also on Tuesday, Iran’s parliament threatened to halt negotiations if they are forced to accept additional sanctions, sanctions the Israeli Prime Minister intends to ask for during his speech to the Joint Session of Congress.

This action was in response to Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) co-sponsoring the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015, to re-impose sanctions waived against Iran during the interim agreement, if negotiations fail to produce an agreement by July 6th. The legislation would include no new sanctions during the course of the negotiations extension and would also include a presidential waiver. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that the administration opposes a congressional up-or-down vote on a nuclear deal.

The Prime Minister has been opposed to Iran having any uranium enrichment program and told the US last November, “Iran is not your ally. Iran is not your friend. Iran is your enemy. It’s not your partner. Iran is committed to the destruction of Israel.”

However official US protocol and the Constitution are taking their lumps with the Boehner’s invitation. In a press release, Boehner said, “In this time of challenge, I am asking the Prime Minister to address Congress on the grave threats radical Islam and Iran pose to our security and way of life.”

The US Constitution puts most foreign policy decision making in the hands of the executive branch. Treaties are interpreted by the Supreme Court, and ratified by the Senate. While the ebb and flow of power in the US is supposed to balance with the three branch system, power grabs are not uncommon, so Boehner’s invitation could be seen as a means to influence both houses of Congress to override any Presidential veto of continued sanctions.

By Anne Phyllis Pinzow

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