So Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Congress over Iran, receiving “ridiculously long standing ovations,” as well as backing from such corners as the Saudi corridors of power and Tehran-born “Shahs of Sunset” star Reza Farahan, who gushed on HuffPost live that he was “totally in support” of the Israeli leader. Predictably, support also poured in from conservative outlets and lawmakers, from Fox News’s Michael Goodman to Sen. Ted Cruz, who compared US President Barack Obama to Chamberlain for failing to understand the threat posed by Iran and elucidated that “existential does not mean a Frenchman in a black beret chain-smoking.”
And yet, critiques of the speech were not long in coming. On The New York Times, Roger Cohen published a damning op-ed castigating Netanyahu over his faulty “Iran logic,” which overlooks the fact that if the West were to pursue the military option against Iran, it would “guarantee” that “Iran races for the bomb in the aftermath” – a detrimental development for Israel’s security, and a likely one in light of Tehran’s already substantial nuclear know-how.
On NPR, Peter Kenyon told Robert Siegel that Netanyahu’s speech might actually have helped Rouhani win domestic support for the deal currently being hammered out – because “if Israel hates the deal, it couldn’t be that bad.” On CNN, Trita Parsi (whose motives we have questioned in the past) asserted that Netanyahu had alienated the White House and damaged the US-Israeli relationship “beyond Obama” – all for the sake of… maintaining Washington’s friendship.
Some outlets, from Vox to RT, focused their criticism on the issue of references to the Iranian-Jewish relationship through the ages, citing Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s insistence in an NBC interview that “Iran” (…certainly not the Islamic Republic) had historically been more disposed to saving the Jews rather than calling for their annihilation.
Over at The Washington Post, Eugene Robinson called Netanyahu’s speech “bombastic,” but praised him for “going beyond bluster” during the more “nuanced” moments of the address, such as his call to insist on “specific changes” in Iran’s behavior “rather than hope for a kinder, gentler Iran” – a “nugget of realism” Robinson said he hoped “Congress actually listened” to.
It is these nuggets we hope won’t be glossed over or overlooked by Netanyahu’s critics – because whatever they might think of him or his speech(es), it hardly absolves the Iranian regime.