Israeli prime minister reminds Congress of its bargaining power

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered a thoughtful and urgent message to the world community through the bully pulpit of the House Chamber: Israel, the United States and global forces for peace can find a solution to Iran’s march toward a nuclear weapon. 

As demonstrated by the prime minister’s address, the House of Representatives is now, and forever must be, the crucible for our nation’s public policy discourse. Congress is where solutions are proposed, crafted, amended and authorized. The prime minister’s message needed to be heard — now — days before a major deadline in the ongoing negotiations.

The consensus is clear: a nuclear Iran would forever change the international dynamic. The balance of power in the world would slip away from those who have given blood and treasure in the fight for freedom and justice, while rewarding the perpetrators of some of the most heinous crimes against humanity. The principle of peace through deterrence would be defunct and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty would be a footnote as rival and regional powers race to acquire their own nuclear weapons. A nuclear arms race will be yet another element of unpredictability in the world’s most volatile region. The safety and security of the United States and Israel would be in extreme peril. 

The prime minister and those of us in the Congress do not oppose any agreement. We oppose a bad agreement. We oppose any deal that needlessly surrenders valuable leverage in the name of taking Iran’s word. Sanctions brought Iran to the table and sanctions will keep it there. There is simply not the trust that state-sponsors of terror will suddenly and uncharacteristically prove honest. 

Iran has consistently supported the elements of terror that bombard Israeli civilians with rockets. It recently destroyed a replica U.S. warship during a defense drill. It still has not reported to international weapon inspectors past nuclear weapon craft. It has treated international obligations as options, disregarding 11 of 12 sets of criteria the International Atomic Energy Agency has requested. It has continued to design a nuclear payload for a missile over the IAEA’s objections. It continues to support mass-murderer Bashar Assad in Syria. And it continues to promote destabilizing elements in Iraq, undermining our decade of sacrifice.

And that is just the current regime. Media outlets have reported former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has returned to the political scene, still promoting his anti-U.S. and anti-Israel platform. The return to power of his ideology could come just as the temporary Iranian part of the proposed agreement lapses, while the self-imposed U.S. concessions remain permanent. 

A successful nuclear agreement must include tangible Iranian concessions. Steps to dismantle its nuclear infrastructure, a commitment to a robust inspections regime and a stop to its dubious terror-related activities must make up the ground floor of any deal. 

Congress is the ultimate arbiter on sanctions. For any changes even to be considered, we must first be convinced that an agreement bars any pathway to a nuclear weapon and that the United States and Israel see serious Iranian attempts to reengage in world affairs including promoting peace, advancing of human rights and supporting equality for women. 

Benjamin Netanyahu carefully outlined the stakes. It will be up to Congress to remember his insight and use it as a guiding force in the coming weeks. 

From Reps. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.), Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) and Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), co-chairmen of the House Republican Israel Caucus, Washington, D.C.