I’m aware of this. It’s just that it doesn’t matter all that much.
The problem Netanyahu has is that he’s shot his bolt on Iran. He has already succeeded in rallying Republicans in Congress to his cause. He has already made his case to both chambers of Congress and the American people. He has already warned about the worst-case scenarios. He has already maximized the forces that oppose the framework deal.
And . . . that’s it. There aren’t any more persuadables.
It’s increasingly unlikely that Netanyahu’s rhetoric is going to persuade any persuadable Democrats in Congress to oppose any eventual deal. Indeed, the framework announcement already has delayed one of the sanctions bills in the works. Bob Menendez stepping down as the ranking minority member of the the Senate Foreign Relations Committee removes a key Democratic critic of the negotiations. Hillary Clinton’s de facto endorsement of the negotiations, as well as that of some GOP analysts, provides additional cover for congressional Democrats. This is all before the White House sell begins in earnest. As John Harwood bluntly tweeted:
Netanyahu could try to affect some of the scenarios that could break apart a deal: exacerbate Middle East instability even more, or persuade the Sunni Arab states to develop their own nuclear programs. Except that neither of those options is in Israel’s national interest.
The last possibility is a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Netanyahu has made threat after threat after threat to do so — but it’s a very low-probability outcome. Contrary to some claims, this wouldn’t be like a replay of the pinprick 1981 strike against Iraq or the 2007 attack in Syria. For reasons outlined here, it’s doubtful that the Israelis could execute a successful strike on all of Iran’s facilities without U.S. help. Which Netanyahu won’t get.
Basically, all of Netanyahu’s policy options to resist an Iran deal stink. He has no choice but to engage in high-risk, unrelated demands that weaken his credibility. Which is why he’s a far less important player than, say, the Sunni Arab countries or the Democratic members of Congress.
To be clear, I think there’s still only a 40 percent chance of any deal coming to fruition. It’s just that Netanyahu plays only a minimal role in altering those odds. And that must be killing him.