ABC affiliate WJLA held a “town hall” roundtable panel titled “US Israel Dangerous Divide,” which brought together experts from both the left and right to discuss the aftermath of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday.
Amongst the panel in the town hall debate was Congressman Scott Perry (R-PA), Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY); Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY); Alan Elsner, Vice President of anti-Israel group J Street; Brooke Goldstein, director of the Lawfare Project; Morton Klein, President of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), and Jerusalem Post writer Gil Hoffman.
The first question to the panel, which was asked by a Twitter user, read, “After this weeks visit, do you think the outcome could weaken the U.S.-Israeli relationship?”
Congressman Perry explained that Netanyahu wanted to use the forum of the U.S. Congress in order to warn about the grave threat posed by a bad deal with the Iranian regime.
The Panel moderator asked the J Street representative, Alan Elsner, what his organization meant when they started a “Bibi doesn’t speak for me” campaign.
The Vice President of the anti-Israel group explained that he was offended by the notion that the Israeli Prime Minister claimed to be speaking on behalf of the entire Jewish people. “Purely factually, he doesn’t speak for us,” said Elsner. “When we disagree, we have an obligation to say that,” he added, before explaining how his group engaged in a failed effort to move the speech to take place after the upcoming Israeli elections.
“The United States is controlling when the agreement” with Iran “will be finalized,” explained Congressman Perry, stressing the urgency of the matter.
Congressman Lee Zeldin was asked to elaborate on what he thought of the Netanyahu speech. “A bad deal could be worse than no deal at all… “I also don’t want the Middle East to end up” in a massive nuclear arms race following the deal, said Zeldin.
Rep. Zeldin was asked by the ABC host whether Netanyahu’s intelligence on Iran “matches up with reality.” Iran is “a state sponsor of terrorism. They did work in an effort to overthrow the government of Yemen. Just last week, they [destroyed] a mock U.S. warship. They have made statements that they want to wipe Israel off the map. They are pursuing an ICBM program,” he responded.
The Lawfare Project’s Brooke Goldstein responded to a question about whether the Netanyahu speech served as destructive to the U.S.-Israel partnership.
“When I hear the [Obama] administration describe an ally, coming to speak to Congress, at the invitation of Congress, coming to speak to the American people about a real genuine concern, about genocide, described as ‘destructive’ to our relationship… We have to think long and hard. Who have we become,” she asked. “And when they described boycotting the speech as done in loyalty to Obama, what does that say? It’s respectful to Obama now to turn your back on a national security issue? What does that say about what they think about the President?”
Goldstein continued, “What Bibi did is raise a very important point, which is that the Islamic Republic of Iran is theologically motivated. We have a President of the United States who has never given a detailed speech to the American public, or to Congress, about the strategic threat that Iran poses.”
“What’s ironic is that Bibi came and gave more of an outline of the Iranian threat than the President ever has,” she concluded.
Watch the discussion below: