Did Netanyahu Lose the Iran Deal Fight for AIPAC?

Now that it’s clear that Congress won’t be able to stop President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, the inevitable postmortems about why he won are starting to be heard. And since the argument about Iran has often been persuaded as a function of a personal feud between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, it’s hardly surprising that the latter is being blamed for what happened. That’s the upshot of a report in the Israeli press in which an anonymous AIPAC official is quoted as saying that Netanyahu’s speech to Congress was the only reason why the pro-Israel lobby failed to persuade enough Democrats to stop the deal. But for AIPAC to attempt to spin its defeat in this matter is both regrettable and misleading. I believe Netanyahu’s decision to accept House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to address a joint meeting of Congress was a tactical error and wrote as much repeatedly before he spoke. But the assertion that this incident alone changed the outcome is absurd. Even if Netanyahu had never come to Washington or if he had kept silent about the issue of Iran throughout the last six months, there was never any way AIPAC or anyone else was going to be able to get most Democrats to spurn a sitting president and the popular head of their party on an issue on which he had staked his foreign policy legacy. The Iran deal fight was won by Obama far more than it was lost by Netanyahu.