newsU.S.-Israel Relations

US lawmakers: Iran disagreement at root of Biden snub of Netanyahu

“The first step the Biden administration must take to repair this critical relationship is to end its pursuit of any new deal with Iran,” Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) told JNS. “Only then can tensions thaw.”

Former U.S. President Barack Obama, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden, delivers a statement on the Iran nuclear agreement in the East Room of the White House on July 14, 2015. Credit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.
Former U.S. President Barack Obama, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden, delivers a statement on the Iran nuclear agreement in the East Room of the White House on July 14, 2015. Credit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.

It is a common refrain in U.S. President Joe Biden’s speeches and statements and at State Department press briefings that Israel is threatening its democratic character by seeking to reform its judiciary, which legal experts have called a bad-faith argument. The president and his administration talk much less about differences between the White House and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Long before Israeli judicial reform, tensions were high between former President Barack Obama and Netanyahu over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, more commonly referred to as the Iran deal. Biden has claimed to have a good relationship with Netanyahu, but he has yet to extend a White House invitation to him. At the root of the tension between the two, U.S. lawmakers and analysts say, is Iran.

“I believe that at the core of this tension is President Biden and his administration’s refusal to support one of our greatest allies. In the past, the United States’ steadfast support for Israel was unquestioned. However, the Biden administration continually failed to live up to this standard,” Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) told JNS.

Earlier this month, Tenney stated that the Biden administration remained silent while Israel “engaged in a counterterrorism operation to neutralize Iranian-backed terrorists in Samaria.” Washington’s silence emboldens Iran, the congresswoman added.

“Between their constant criticism of Israel, interference in domestic Israeli political matters and their silence on Iranian-backed Palestinian terrorism, the Biden administration is the only party to blame for this rise in tension,” Tenney told JNS.

“I wholly agree with Prime Minister Netanyahu that President Biden is being reckless with both American and Israeli security by negotiating a new ‘less for more’ deal with Iran,” she added. “The first step the Biden administration must take to repair this critical relationship is to end its pursuit of any new deal with Iran, only then can tensions thaw.”

Rep. Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.) told JNS that Netanyahu’s lack of invitation to Washington “is an indictment of this administration’s severe tunnel vision.”

“Israel is America’s greatest ally and a critical security partner, and I certainly don’t begrudge the Netanyahu government for protecting their citizens from a nuclear armed Iran,” Ogles added.

Last March, Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) tweeted along similar lines about Iran. “The reports that Biden’s State Department is directly and indirectly aiding, assisting and leading the protests in Israel should concern every American,” the congressman wrote. “Biden can’t stand that Bibi is tough on Iran, and he’s doing everything he can to topple his government. It’s disgraceful!”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) tweeted on July 12 that nations are, unfortunately, better off as enemies rather than allies of the Biden administration. “They’ve granted concessions to Cuba, Venezuela and even China while publicly condemning and stabbing allies Israel, El Salvador and Guatemala in the back,” Rubio wrote.

On his July 12 broadcast program, conservative lawyer Mark Levin asked Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a presidential candidate, about the threat of a nuclear Iran and the Biden administration’s hostility toward Israel.

“It’s just outrageous. I mean, it’s all political,” DeSantis said. “You know, they don’t like Bibi, quite frankly, because he’s a conservative.”

Washington should avoid sticking its beak in internal Israeli matters, such as judicial reform, according to DeSantis. “This is a first-rate, very smart people in that country,” he said. “They can figure that out.”

DeSantis added that Biden wants to resurrect Obama’s Iran policy, while it ought to be “turning the screws on that regime.” Iran used the money that Obama gave it to fund Middle East terrorism. 

“That’s their number one goal,” he said. If Iran could get away with a nuclear attack on Israel, it would do so ” he added. “We should be doing all we can to deny them the ability to have a nuclear weapon.”

Walid Phares, a foreign policy analyst at Newsmax, agreed. “The deeper reason why the Biden Administration is having tense relations with the Netanyahu government now, is not essentially about the future of the West Bank, but because Israel is mobilizing its friends against the Iran Deal, basically fighting the Iran Regime,” he tweeted earlier this month.

Sarah Stern, founder and president of The Endowment for Middle East Truth, told JNS that Biden entered office determined to renegotiate the Iran deal, which he thought would be an “easy feat.” 

“There have been attempts to negotiate in secret what should have been brought to Congress under the Iranian Nuclear Agreement Review Act,” she said.

“There has been a tremendous amount of residual anger against Prime Minister Netanyahu, who rightfully saw the Iranian nuclear project as an existential threat to Israel, to the Sunni Arab nations and inevitably to the free, Western world,” she added. Stern noted that many foreign policy staffers in the Biden administration are holdovers from the Obama era. 

Israeli Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu points to a bomb cartoon that illustrated his take on Iranian nuclear development when he addressed the 67th session of the U.N. General Assembly. Credit: U.N. Photo/J Carrier.

“Much of what we see today as heightened and exaggerated hostility towards Israel and every one of its internal domestic policy issues is a remaining aftermath of the hostility from the Obama administration towards Prime Minister Netanyahu and his desire to expose the world to the grave, existential threat that any nuclear deal with Iran posed, and still poses, to this very day,” she said.

Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, sees things a bit differently.

“Biden’s history with Netanyahu predates the Obama years and the Iran deal. The two men have worked together for decades, through all the ups and downs of the U.S.-Israel relationship,” he told JNS. “They certainly have the ability to work out their differences, whether they stem from legal overhaul, Iran deal or other frictions.”

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