Netanyahu’s ‘interference’ in US affairs is ‘unprecedented’ for a foreign leader: Obama
I24 NEWS – Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s “interference” in US affairs is without precedent among foreign leaders, US President Barack Obama told CNN in an interview published early on Sunday.
Interviewer Fareed Zakaria put to Obama the question whether it was “appropriate of a foreign head of government to inject himself into an American affair” to the extent Netanyahu has done in his public opposition to the nuclear deal with Iran, and whether Obama can recall another instance of such conduct by a foreign head of state.
After suggesting Zakaria pose the question to Netanyahu, Obama remarked that he “doesn’t recall a similar example.”
In last week’s emphatic speech defending the agreement between Iran and world powers, Obama singled out Israel as the sole opponent of the deal, but said it would also benefit from an Iran blocked from gaining nuclear weapons.
“Every nation in the world that has commented publicly — with the exception of the Israeli government — has expressed support,” he said.
Congress is expected to vote on the issue within weeks. The White House has mounted an intense lobbying campaign to convince reluctant members of the Republican-controlled Congress to back the deal.
Obama warned lawmakers that rejecting diplomacy would lead to war and destroy US credibility, just as Netanyahu did a webcast for more than 10,000 Jewish Americans in which he said that “this is the time to oppose this dangerous deal.”
AIPAC, the US pro-Israel lobby, has urged the Congress to reject the Iran nuclear deal, saying it fails to deliver on pledges to block off Iran’s path toward developing atomic munitions.
Since Netanyahu and Obama came to power in 2009 they have had a testy relationship, clashing over Israeli settlement building and the Middle East peace process.
It has reached a nadir earlier this year when Netanyahu made a speech speech to the US Congress at the invitation to Netanyahu from Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner.
The announcement of the speech sparked outrage, as the invitation was not cleared by the White House, and apparently had been deliberately kept from the Obama administration.
Obama accused of anti-Jewish rhetoric
While Obama is facing criticism over the deal from Netanyahu and Republicans, there also those from his own party who have come out against it. Senior Democrat Chuck Schumer announced on Thursday that he opposes the nuclear deal and immediately received a wave of vitriol, including political threats from former White House aides.
Online Jewish publication Tablet Magazine published an editorial a day later calling out Obama and the Democratic Party for their use of anti-Jewish rhetoric in an effort to whip up public support for the Iran deal.
In the article titled “Crossing a Line to Sell a Deal,” Tablet pointed out that Obama has used terms associated with anti-Semitic accusations throughout the debate on the Iran deal.
“What we increasingly can’t stomach—and feel obliged to speak out about right now—is the use of Jew-baiting and other blatant and retrograde forms of racial and ethnic prejudice as tools to sell a political deal, or to smear those who oppose it,” read the editorial. “Accusing Senator Schumer of loyalty to a foreign government is bigotry, pure and simple.”
The editorial took on a harsher tone and continued: “Accusing Senators and Congressmen whose misgivings about the Iran deal are shared by a majority of the US electorate of being agents of a foreign power, or of selling their votes to shadowy lobbyists, or of acting contrary to the best interests of the United States, is the kind of naked appeal to bigotry and prejudice that would be familiar in the politics of the pre-Civil Rights Era South.”
According to Tablet, this use of anti-Jewish incitement as a political tool is “a sickening new development in American political discourse, and we have heard too much of it lately—some coming, ominously, from our own White House and its representatives.”
“Let’s not mince words: Murmuring about ‘money’ and ‘lobbying’ and ‘foreign interests’ who seek to drag America into war is a direct attempt to play the dual-loyalty card,” the editorial read. “It’s the kind of dark, nasty stuff we might expect to hear at a white power rally, not from the President of the United States—and it’s gotten so blatant that even many of us who are generally sympathetic to the administration, and even this deal, have been shaken by it.”
“We do not accept the idea that Senator Schumer or anyone else is a fair target for racist incitement, anymore than we accept the idea that the basic norms of political discourse in this country do not apply to Jews. Whatever one feels about the merits of the Iran deal, sales techniques that call into question the patriotism of American Jews are examples of bigotry—no matter who does it. On this question, we should all stand in defense of Senator Schumer.”
Meanwhile, a progressive advocacy group in the US has said it will withhold campaign contributions to Schumer and other Democrats if their vote against the deal means that it is not approved.
After Schumer announced that he would oppose the deal, some 18,000 people signed a petition on MoveOn’s website, entitled “No money for war hawks.”
They committed to withholding $8.3 million they would have otherwise contributed to the party in Congress, the group told the Huffington Post on Friday.
Scientists back Obama
More than two dozen top US scientists, among them nuclear researchers and Nobel prize winners, praised the Iran nuclear deal as major security achievement in a letter to Obama, The New York Times reported.
The two-page letter, from some of the world’s most knowledgeable nuclear experts, could prove to be a shot in the arm for Obama, who has launched a major effort to sell the deals to skeptical members of the US Congress.
The letter tells the US president that the Iran deal “will advance the cause of peace and security in the Middle East and can serve as a guidepost for future nonproliferation agreements.”
The Iran accord, the scientists said, has “more stringent constraints than any previously negotiated nonproliferation framework.”
There were 29 signatories of the letter in all, some of whom are physicists who have held top level military security clearances. Others have advised Congress, the White House or federal agencies, on military security.
Among those who signed the letter are Leon Cooper of Brown University; Sheldon Glashow of Boston University; David Gross of the University of California, Santa Barbara; Burton Richter of Stanford; and Frank Wilczek of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — all Nobel laureates.
The so-called P5+1 — Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the United States — signed an agreement last month with Iran aimed at ensuring Tehran does not acquire a nuclear bomb, in return for relief from crippling sanctions.
As part of the deal, the International Atomic Energy Agency will have to verify that Iran does indeed scale down its facilities, clearing a path towards ending UN, US and EU sanctions.
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