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What the Iran Hawks Hope to Gain from Netanyahu’s Speech

James Zogby comments on the Netanyahu speech controversy:

The Boehner-Netanyahu insult to the president may get cheers from some weak-kneed members of Congress in both parties, but it won’t sway voters either in Israel or the U.S. And if Congress attempts to buck the president by passing new sanctions legislation, he will, as promised, veto the bill. And so it appears that the instigators of this entire affair will get little more than a black eye for their efforts.

I hope Zogby is right about this, but that’s still not much consolation. Netanyahu and the Iran hawks here in the U.S. may lose on new sanctions legislation in the near term, but they are likely to get away with their outrageous behavior without suffering any real political consequences. We can hope that Israeli voters will recoil from Netanyahu’s abuse of their country’s foreign policy for his own political ends, but there are many examples of how nationalist leaders are rewarded by their voters for acting this way. This episode has made clear how committed both Netanyahu and Republican leaders are to a mindless, hard-line Iran policy, and at the moment the only thing that is keeping their sabotage from working is the fact that Obama can veto the legislation.

If Iran hawks are getting a black eye from this, it must be the most well-concealed black eye in a long time. Before the invitation was announced, there was never any realistic chance that the GOP could have rounded up enough Democratic votes to override a presidential veto, so losing a few Democratic votes for a new sanctions bill isn’t that important. The Republicans can still easily pass the bill, Obama will have to veto it, and then they will raise a hue and cry about the terrible “appeasement” that they are trying to prevent. They probably would have preferred to dress up the bill’s passage as a “bipartisan” effort, but that obviously doesn’t matter to them. What matters to them is staking out a maximalist position on Iran so that they can denounce the administration for being “weak,” and having Netanyahu openly taking their side in this fashion helps them do that.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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