For Peace, We Must Defeat Netanyahu on Iran Diplomacy

03/03/2015 03:47 pm ET | Updated May 03, 2015
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Peace and justice advocates in the U.S. are fighting Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and his U.S. amen corner on two fronts. The first front is the fight over Iran diplomacy, which Netanyahu is trying to blow up. The second front is the fight for justice for the Palestinians. One front is on the front page of the newspaper right now. The other front is barely a footnote right now in mainstream public discourse.

But it seems obvious that if we can't beat these people on Iran diplomacy, we haven't got a prayer of beating them on Israeli settlements in the West Bank. If we want to have a serious conversation about how to beat Netanyahu on settlements, the fight over Iran diplomacy should be required reading, because we're facing the same adversaries, with the key difference right now being that on the second front, we have far fewer friends.

Since 2006, with one exception, every time we ever won anything on the Iran diplomacy front President Obama was on our side. Or, if you like, we were on President Obama's side.

On our issues, it matters greatly who the President of the United States is; it's far and away the most important thing. This is why on our issues, stopping the uncontested Hillary train is a top priority. Senator Schumer bragged that Netanyahu tickets were going like hot latkes. Within the Democratic Party, that's who Senator Schumer represents. Within the Democratic Party, that's who Hillary is representing right now. That is why we must do all we can to stop that train.

Over the last several weeks, many of us were very engaged in trying to get Democrats to skip Netanyahu's speech to Congress. We generated tens of thousands of petition signatures and emails and thousands of phone calls. We organized petition deliveries to Congress.

And, as of Tuesday morning, The Hill reported that 56 Democrats were skipping the speech. JFP and NIAC reported 61. The majority of the Congressional Black Caucus skipped. Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders, the national leaders of the populist wing of the Democratic Party, skipped the speech. So: yay us! That's totally historic.

But let's not forget the context in which we got 61 Democrats to skip. The context is that Netanyahu is attacking Obama. In the past there was no fight over whether Democrats would attend Netanyahu's speech or not; it would have been unthinkable. It's because of Netanyahu attacking Obama that it became thinkable; it's because Obama is trying to do something -- make a diplomatic agreement with Iran -- that Netanyahu and his amen corner are resorting to extreme measures to try to stop.

If we want to win on Israel-Palestine, we have to win on Iran diplomacy. This is as much a must-win for people who are focused on justice for Palestinians as it is for people who are focused on Iran diplomacy. Because if we lose on Iran diplomacy, people who we need to recruit to help us win on Israel-Palestine will conclude that it's totally futile.

But if we win on Iran diplomacy -- if Obama wins -- it's a new world. If Obama wins on Iran diplomacy, will he be content? Will he say, OK, that's my legacy, that's good enough, no point in trying to do anything else? Victory is addictive. If the workers win a nickel raise, they don't think, ok, that's all we can ever get. They think: that was great. Maybe next time we can get more. That's why the boss fights them tooth and nail on the nickel. Because he knows that victory is addictive.

I think this is a key reason that Netanyahu is fighting so hard against what everyone knows the Iran deal is, what everyone has known for years the Iran deal is. Because he knows that this might not be the end. If Obama wins on this, maybe Obama will go after the Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

If Obama did go after Israeli settlements in the West Bank, it's plausible that he could bring Democratic constituency groups with him. Think about the progressive Democratic groups that have sent alerts on Iran diplomacy. If Obama wins on Iran diplomacy and then goes after the settlements, some of these groups might come with. I'm not saying that they will; I'm saying that they might. It's plausible. Victory is addictive for them too. If it becomes a Democratic/Republican thing -- as this did -- if Democrats start to rally around Obama, that makes it much easier for these groups to come in, to do things that they couldn't do before.

That, to me, is a plausible path to victory on Israel-Palestine. Obama wins on Iran diplomacy. Then Obama makes a move on Israel-Palestine, we rally Democrats behind him, we rally Democratic constituency groups behind him, we rally Congressional Democrats behind him. Then we win.

To test that proposition, we have to win on Iran diplomacy right now. That means we have to rally Congressional Democrats to defeat the two bills -- the Kirk-Menendez bill and the Corker-Graham bill that AIPAC is pushing in Congress this week, bills whose passage would blow up the Iran talks. Everyone in the U.S. who cares about justice for Palestinians must do everything they can to defeat these two bills.