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Will Netanyahu’s Speech Gambit Payoff?

WHO: American University Experts

WHAT: Netanyahu Joint Session of Congress Speech

WHEN: March 2 - ongoing

WHERE: American University, in-studio, via telephone

BACKGROUND: The several weeks of brewing controversy surrounding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's culminates with his speech on Tuesday to a joint session of Congress. Breaches in protocol to accusations of partisan brinksmanship and influencing Israel's upcoming elections have soured the event and potentially relations for the remainder of the Obama administration.

The American University experts below are available to discuss Netanyahu's speech to Congress and the potential impact it will have in Washington and abroad.

Guy Ziv, assistant professor in American University's School of International Service's U.S. Foreign Policy Program, is the author of Why Hawks Become Doves: Shimon Peres and Foreign Policy Change in Israel. According to Ziv, personality plays a critical role in Israeli foreign policy and politics in general. is currently featuring Ziv's op-ed on Netanyahu's speech.

On the topic of Netanyahu's speech to Congress Ziv says:

"The Netanyahu speech places Democratic Members of Congress in a predicament: Do they attend the speech out of respect to a close ally, but in so doing assist Speaker Boehner in undermining President Obama, or do they demonstrate loyalty to the president by snubbing the Israeli prime minister?"

"Netanyahu, who is genuinely concerned about Iran, is also driven by domestic political considerations. He faces elections in Israel on March 17th, and what better prop than a security-themed speech to a joint session of Congress? This is Exhibit A for the man who wants to be perceived by his nation as Mr. Security."

"Israel has an important stake in preventing Iran from going nuclear. Indeed, there are legitimate reasons to doubt Iran's intentions. A week ago, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran continues to evade questions pertaining to Iran's past work on designing weapons. Netanyahu's speech, however, is counterproductive because he loses potential support for more sanctions on Iran from Democrats who do not want to assist Speaker Boehner in embarrassing the president."

Michael Brenner directs American University's Center for Israel Studies and is the international president of the Leo Baeck Institute. 

On the topic of Netanyahu's speech to Congress Brenner says: "Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech to Congress already had one result: it split the American political scene more than any other political event related to Israel before. Netanyahu may well end up winning votes for his Likud party in the upcoming Israeli elections as the result of this speech, but his decision to accept an invitation by one political party without consulting with the White House will further contribute to the deterioration of relations between the current U.S. President and the current Israeli Prime Minister."

Dan Arbell, American University Center for Israeli Studies scholar-in-residence, is a 25-year veteran of the Israeli Foreign Service, serving in senior posts overseas in the United Nations, the U.S. and Japan, and holding senior positions at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Headquarters in Jerusalem. Arbell recently appeared on CNN International to discuss Netanyahu's speech to Congress and upcoming Israeli elections.

On the topic of Netanyahu's speech to Congress and a nuclear Iran Arbell says:

"There is a set of unwritten rules and principles that have guided the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel for decades, among them the importance of keeping Israel a bipartisan issue. PM Netanyahu has broken this rule and by aligning with Republicans is endangering the special relationship."

"PM Netanyahu clearly views a nuclear Iran as a strategic threat, perhaps an existential threat, but the timing of his address to Congress and the manner in which it was arranged indicate that Israeli political considerations played a major part in his decision to address Congress at this time." 


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