Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday lit up partisan controversy. Democrats were infuriated that House Speaker John Boehner invited Netanyahu to address Congress without Obama’s consent. Obama saw the visit as a break in the U.S. foreign policy rule to not host foreign leaders who are about to be up for election. In fact, the speech sparked so much conversation that NPR reports Netanyahu said of his talk, “Never has so much been written about a speech that hasn’t been given." But it wasn't just writing — political cartoons tell the tale of the opinions inflamed by a speech that did less to solve a problem and more to stir up the partisan divide.
Now that Netanyahu has given the much talked about speech, the conversations about it have yet to stop. In his talk, which occurred just weeks before Israel’s parliament elections and the deadline in U.S.-led negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, Netanyahu asked lawmakers to oppose an emerging deal over Iran’s nuclear program.
"This is a bad deal — a very bad deal,” Netanyahu told Congress during his speech. “We're better off without it.” According to him, the deal is “very bad” because it allows Iran to keep much of its nuclear infrastructure intact, and thus doesn’t take away its capability to get its hands on nuclear weapons. Obama, on the other hand, thinks that cutting a deal with Iran will do exactly the opposite.
Ironically, Netanyahu began his speech by thanking Obama for his support and for saying the U.S.-Israeli relationship must “always remain above politics.” However, many think that his speech went against that statement, and delved the relationship directly into politics and partisanship. NPR reports that Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice said Netanyahu’s speech “injected a degree of partisanship” into the relationship and said such an addition was “destructive to the fabric of the relationship.”
While it remains unclear exactly what effect Netanyahu’s speech had, Rice’s inklings seem to be correct — as evidenced by the slew of political cartoons highlighting the stark partisanship seen Tuesday. By pinning Republicans and Democrats even more against one another in his visit, Netanyahu essentially made American bipartisan support for Israel into a heated partisan issue.
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