Israel analysis: The public is torn between pleasing Barack Obama and fighting Iran

 

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Americans are divided over Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial address to Congress tomorrow. So too are the citizens of Jerusalem, where many see Israel’s leader as merely attempting to strengthen himself at home by showing strength abroad.

“This has no benefit, it doesn’t serve Israel’s interest, it just deepens the disagreements with the US,” said Matan Mizrahi, 28, an education student in Jerusalem. Mr Netanyahu chose to make the speech on Iran to gain advantage before the elections on 17 March, Mr Mizrahi said.

“Everyone knows he hopes this speech will push aside the socio-economic issues from the election’s agenda.” he added. But rather than help Israel, the speech will only bring retribution from the Obama administration, Mr Mizrahi predicts. “It means we could lose the American veto in the [UN] Security Council, maybe aid budgets will be cut and the US won’t join a coalition with us if we need it,” he said.

Abie Shapira, 58, a computer technician, added: “Netanyahu lives with the feeling that he has to save the nation of Israel and that he is the only one who knows how to do this. But, in fact, he’s putting the final nail in the coffin of relations with Obama. Our previous prime ministers knew our limitations, that we are a small country and that the US is our support. He is causing damage that will be impossible to repair.”

But Yeshayahu Kantrowitz, a barber, said the Prime Minister was doing the right thing, setting off the alarm about a possible US-brokered agreement over Iran’s nuclear programme. “The Americans are about to endanger Israel, the Middle East and the world and he must convince them not to.” Assaf Ben-Ami, 42, who owns a gelateria, added: “There is naivety among the Americans about Iran and we need to shake this. The Iranians declare they want to destroy Israel.”

He said harming relations with the US paled in comparison to the harm that would ensue if Iran got the bomb. “If you view it as an existential threat, which it is, nothing should stand in Netanyahu’s way from trying to stop it. If the Americans really think it’s a good agreement, why not put it to a vote in Congress?”

“This is definitely not an electoral ploy,” he added. “Netanyahu has been warning of the Iranian threat for years. This can influence the voting in either way and he may even lose votes because of it.”

A member of Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party and supermarket owner, Yaakov Namad, said: “I do hope he will have an alternative, a proposal and not just say ‘don’t do this’.”

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