US President Obama faced a Republican-controlled Congress in his State of the Union speech. The economy, Iran and ISIS were on the agenda. Israel was not.
In what was widely described as a “defiant” State of the Union address, US President Barack Obama focused on what he believed to be the pertinent issues facing the US. The speech was dominated by economic and domestic matters, but Obama did address anti-Semitism and foreign issues as well.
One of these was Iran’s nuclear aspirations and the negotiations under way between the P5+1 powers and the Islamic Republic. A Republican-controlled Congress is pushing for more pressure and sanctions on Iran in order to bring them to their knees and to ensure that they cannot develop nuclear weapons. Obama opposes further sanctions, as his administration believes that they are not conducive to reaching a diplomatic solution.
‘No Guarantees Negotiations Will Succeed’
“Between now and this spring, we have a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed Iran; secures America and our allies – including Israel; while avoiding yet another Middle East conflict,” Obama declared.
However, “there are no guarantees that negotiations will succeed, and I keep all options on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran,” he continued. “But new sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails.”
“It doesn’t make sense,” he said. “I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress. The American people expect us to only go to war as a last resort.”
Regarding the war on terror, Obama vowed to “continue to hunt down terrorists and dismantle their networks, and we reserve the right to act unilaterally, as we have done relentlessly since I took office to take out terrorists who pose a direct threat to us and our allies.” In this context, he omitted any reference to “Islamic” terror.
Obama defended his campaign against the Islamic State (IS or ISIS) terror organization in Iraq and Syria and claimed that the US has achieved its goal of stopping ISIS’s advance. The campaign has been ongoing since September.
Also, “we speak out against the deplorable anti-Semitism that has resurfaced in certain parts of the world,” Obama asserted. “It’s why we continue to reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims — the vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace.”
The Israeli Angle
The Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are usually mentioned at a State of the Union address. This time, Obama mentioned Israel only once during his 7,000-word speech. He did not mention the Palestinians at all.
Asked by Israel’s IDF Radio for the reason, US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro replied: “Obama focused on our current challenges, and that is first to weaken and eventually annihilate ISIS, and this is what we [the US] are doing with other countries.”
The president “also focused on the war on violent extremism, on the fight on anti-Semitism which has intensified in some places in the world and on the negotiations to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons,” Shapiro said.
By: Atara Beck, World Israel News