Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address a joint session of Congress this week. We should listen closely as he raises legitimate concerns about Iran — giving him and his country the respect worthy of a close ally.
Instead, President Obama and some Democrats have chosen to use this visit as a political football. This is exactly what Americans dislike about Washington.
Lost amidst the petty squabbling in our nation’s capital over protocol is the simple fact that the U.S.–Israel relationship is in crisis, perhaps the most serious crisis in our history. While implementing policy that rewards Israel’s enemies, the Obama administration has been questioning the prime minister’s motives and attempting to undermine his message.
Stop the pettiness. We must repair the ruptured bonds between our two countries.
The U.S.–Israel partnership has historically been a rare point of bipartisan consensus. Israel is our closest ally in the Middle East. Our countries share common democratic values, our governments work together daily to confront security threats, and our citizens are bound together by shared history, culture, and blood. This alliance has withstood wars, diplomatic crises, and personal tensions. Until President Obama, all U.S. presidents were dedicated to working out legitimate disagreements between our two governments in order to advance our common interests.
This president has chosen a different course. He has been uniquely indifferent to Israel’s concerns and uniquely accommodating to Israel’s enemies.
Consider the most important point of contention in the U.S.–Israel relationship today: the Iran nuclear challenge. Prime Minister Netanyahu comes to Washington not to provoke the president, but to ring the alarm bells. He has legitimate security concerns regarding the type of deal he sees taking shape. In his view, this deal is likely to leave Iran as a threshold nuclear state and provide the world’s leading state sponsor of terror with billions of dollars in sanctions relief.
Such a deal presents an existential threat to Israel. And at a time of extreme anxiety in Jerusalem, the president has reportedly ceased communicating with the Israeli security establishment while writing to Ayatollah Khamenei, supreme leader of a regime that repeatedly calls for Israel’s destruction.
We must not allow this relationship to deteriorate any further. So what do we do? First, the president and his advisers must treat the prime minister of a longstanding ally with the respect that he deserves and stop playing politics. The second step is for the United States and Israel to work out parameters of a comprehensive nuclear agreement that are acceptable to both sides. And finally we must work to rehabilitate our traditional alliance structure in the Middle East, creating a bulwark capable of resisting Iranian aggression. Our national security depends on it.
For all of our allies in the region, Arab as well as Israeli, Iran’s nuclear ambitions are just one part of its broader assault on the regional order, an order that depends on U.S. leadership. If the president continues to call into doubt our friendship with Israel while seeking rapprochement with Iran, he will harm more than just the U.S.–Israeli relationship. He will undermine the trust of our remaining friends and partners in the Middle East. In addition to warm relations with Israel, we also need the cooperation of the Sunni Arab states in order to destroy radical Islamic terrorists and stabilize the region, and the Sunni Arab states are as threatened by Iran’s deadly designs as Israel is.
Strong leadership in the White House is the missing ingredient. Today our alliances are not sound because our allies question our commander-in-chief’s resolve and commitment to their security. We cannot afford to be passive spectators while the world descends into chaos. America must stand with our friends and stand up to our enemies. Then and only then can our standing in the Middle East and throughout the world improve and with it our own security.
— Scott Walker is the governor of Wisconsin. He was elected to a second term in November 2014 and recently formed Our American Revival to take his issues platform to the national stage.