Israeli politicians and pundits responded to increased US Senate support for the Iran nuclear deal announced Tuesday by calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to abandon his lobbying effort against the deal and shift to repairing ties with Washington.
After US President Barack Obama on Tuesday secured enough Democratic voices to ensure he can prevent a vote proposing to strike down the recent nuclear deal with Iran, Israel’s political arena responded to the seemingly inevitable fact that the controversial agreement would survive Congress.
“Netanyahu must immediately work to minimize the damage he caused with the US,” Tzipi Livni of the Zionist Union faction said. “Instead of marketing a dramatic security failure on Facebook as if it were a success – now is the time to fix the alliance with the US and to reorganize regionally to cope with the threat caused under his watch: A strong, rich and legitimized Iran, a threshold nuclear state supporter of terrorism. This is no longer a matter of marketing and polls in the US, but of security responsibility.”
Earlier in the day three of five remaining undecided Democrat senators said they will support the nuclear deal in Congress rather than vote with the bill to block it. The senators’ announcement brought the total of Democrats supporting the deal to 41, enough to potentially allow them to filibuster the resolution and prevent it from coming to a vote later this week.
The White House said it was gratified that enough senators have announced support for the Iran nuclear deal.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the administration expects the 41 senators who have announced support to take the steps to prevent Congress from undermining the agreement, a reference to Senate Democrats’ expected use of a filibuster to block consideration of the resolution.
A majority in Congress still opposes the deal, necessitating a presidential veto should a vote against the deal pass.
Earnest said the White House is disappointed that many lawmakers decided to oppose the deal before they learned the details. He added the “vast majority” of those who took time to consider the deal now support it.
Netanyahu has been a vocal and vehement opponent of the agreement brokered in July, which curbs Iran’s nuclear program in return for an end to sanctions that crippled the Iranian economy and brought the Islamic Republic to the negotiating table.
Kulanu MK Michael Oren, a former ambassador to the US and the chairman of the Subcommittee for Public Diplomacy and Foreign Affairs, said uncertainty among the US public shows a wide distrust that the deal, aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program, will succeed.
“The fact that the deal is expected to pass by a narrow majority testifies to the depth of doubt and concern among the American public regarding the nuclear deal,” he said and vowed to keep campaigning against a nuclear Iran.
“As far as we are concerned, this is not the end of the struggle but its beginning. The State of Israel is not committed to the agreement and will always know to defend itself, even if it has to go it alone,” Oren said in a statement published in Hebrew.
MK Yair Lapid, leader of opposition party Yesh Atid, repeated his call that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “failure” in fighting the Iran deal be investigated by a commission of inquiry.
“The number of Democrat senators who announced they will support the nuclear deal with Iran has risen to 41,” said Lapid. “Among them are 8 out of the 10 Jewish senators. All of Netanyahu’s theories crashed and it looks like he was wrong all along the way.”
Lapid said Netanyahu “dragged” Israel to confrontation with the White House “for nothing, and for nothing he split and tore apart the Jewish communities. For nothing he turned Israel a satellite of the Republican Party … for nothing he hurt the power of pro-Israel lobby AIPAC.”
MK Zahava Gal-On, head of the opposition Meretz party, also attacked the prime minister shortly after senators Richard Blumenthal, Ron Wyden and Gary Peters announced their support.
“All of Netanyahu’s efforts to undermine [US President Barack] Obama failed,” she said. Obama has shown “responsible and powerful” leadership, she said, adding that “Netanyahu went to a battle he knew he would lose, on behalf of the interests of his Republican friends, and along the way shattered the strategic relationship between Israel and the United States.”
The Senate was expected to begin debate on a resolution of disapproval of the deal on Tuesday afternoon. The Republican majority – together with a handful of Democratic senators who oppose it – are expected pass the resolution – but only if a vote can actually be held.
In order for cloture to be called, allowing debate to end and a vote taken, 60 senators must vote in favor.
It is not yet clear if Democrats will pursue that strategy, which would keep US President Barack Obama from having to pull out his veto pen on the resolution of disapproval. It would take a two-thirds majority supporting the disapproval bill to prevent the presidential veto, but the 41-voice Democrat bloc soundly prevents that outcome.
Supporters of the deal applauded Obama’s achievement on the deal.
Trita Parsi, president and founder of the non-profit organization the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) declared in a post to his Twitter feed that Obama’s success in securing the required backing in Congress was a victory over the “2-4 billionaires” against the deal — an apparent reference to the Jewish lobby in Washington.
Significance of this victory cant be overstated. Our side was Obama and a large, diversity coalition. The other side was 2-4 billionaires…
— Trita Parsi (@tparsi) September 8, 2015
Associated Press contributed to this report.