Netanyahu’s US trip is ‘fistfight that will leave casualties behind’

U.S. President Barack Obama walks down Cross Hall with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the East Room of the White House in Washington September 1, 2010.  (Reuters/Jason Reed)
Israeli PM Netanyahu’s visit to the US for a controversial speech to Congress may further damage relations with Washington, but will also bring him points at the upcoming elections, Alon Liel, former Israeli Foreign Ministry Director General told RT.

RT:Things between Israel and America are already very strained. Will Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington, where he is due to address Congress, make it worse?

Alon Liel: Definitely. It’s a fistfight and the journey - even if it’s successful in Netanyahu terms - will leave casualties behind… The success of Netanyahu tomorrow, if he gets a standing ovation, he is embarrassing the American President to the extent that further damage to relations with the US is unavoidable. I don’t know if he will affect the agreement with Iran but the damage to relations with the US was already done. So, unfortunately Netanyahu is not doing the overall calculation. He has one goal: he wants to stop this deal with Iran but even if he manages to do it, he will pay a high price in another front.

READ MORE: ‘Fateful mission’: Israeli PM Netanyahu stokes tensions in bid to foil US-Iran nuclear deal

RT:So was he wrong to go to America now?

AL: Yes, you see the international Middle Eastern dimension here is not the only one. He has also his elections calculation. And from the point of view of winning the elections in two weeks, he might have done a correct thing if the airplane bringing Netanyahu back is landing and there was a standing ovation in the Congress and nothing happened to the relations between Israel and the US, nothing dramatic, Netanyahu will win the elections. This is a big goal for him, definitely for years to come. But when I look at it on the international arena I think it’s a big mistake because the effect on the agreement will be marginal. President Obama is determined to have this agreement with Iran. I don’t think the visit will meaningfully affect the agreement with Iran and it will definitely cause damage to the relations with the US that are very important. The Americans are giving aid to Israel, have their umbrella in the Security Council of the UN and vetoes every anti-Israeli resolution so the damage will be done on the international level, not necessarily internally politically in Israel.

READ MORE: Netanyahu speech to Congress will push Tehran closer to bomb – Israeli ex-security commanders

RT:Could Netanyahu really derail a possible nuclear deal with Iran, especially with the Republicans now dominating Capitol Hill?

AL: Here I’m not sure because he is approaching the Congress. The Congress is a player when it comes to sanctions against Iran. The Congress is probably going also to confirm the deal that Obama wants to sign; maybe Obama will be able to avoid it. He is not going to speak to the American administration and not to the other powers involved in this agreement. He’s selected one specific and important player, the American Congress, and there I don’t know what the effect will be. Definitely when it comes to the American President maybe also the other players involved in the agreement with Iran… I think what he’s doing will only annoy them but if he is recruiting the Congress on his side he might have achievements.

RT:What about the Israeli people? Will the Prime Minister’s visit to the US increase his popularity?

AL: It depends a little bit on the outcome of the journey. But since I don’t foresee a drastic American move punishing Israel during the visit and shortly after, I think it will help Netanyahu internally, it will bring him votes, because by having this journey he is shifting the tension of the Israeli public to the security issues on which he’s considered better than his rivals in these elections, who are trying to push the debate into social and economic aspects of life in Israel. So I think by the near effect [the fact] that he’s going and changing the agenda he is benefiting here internally.


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