President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during a meeting in the Oval Office on March 3, 2014.National Journal

This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal

A Republican majority in both chambers of Congress will lead to improved U.S.-Israel relations, according to 58 percent of National Journal's National Security Insiders.

A number of Insiders said that the U.S. relationship with Israel hinges on the outcome of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. "If nothing else, a Republican Congress can derail a misguided agreement with Iran over its nuclear program," said one Insider. "That step alone would go a long way toward improving relations with Israel."

Another Insider said that a pro-Israel GOP Congress would only play into Israeli hands. "Israel has long owned Congress lock, stock, and barrel, and the new Congress will only increase Israel's power," the Insider said. "Thus, tragically, America's foreign policy in the Middle East will continue to be directed by Tel Aviv."

But even though a Republican Congress will likely be more pro-Israel than a Democratic one, it's ultimately up to President Obama to set the tone of U.S. foreign policy, said another Insider. "If the administration continues to alienate Israel, then there is little the Republican Congress can do to fix that relationship," the Insider said.

And one Insider who said the GOP wave will lead to better relations noted that there's really only one direction for the alliance to go from here. "Bilateral relations can't get any worse," the Insider said.

Among those who said the Republican Congress would not help relations with Israel, a number of Insiders contended the problem lies with the president, not Congress.

"U.S.-Israeli relations are broken right now. It is personal. And with Obama convinced that Bibi is trying to work around him with Republicans, the tension is likely to increase, rather than improve," said one Insider, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by his nickname.

Another put it succinctly: "Not for the next two years."

Instead of blaming Obama, some Insiders pointed fingers at the Israeli side. "Bad U.S.-Israeli relations are rooted firmly in policies of the right-wing Israeli government that are contrary to U.S. interests," said one.

And any reconciliation between the two sides after new Republican lawmakers get settled in January will be a one-sided concession, one Insider said. "If 'improvement' means acquiescing in Israeli government's continuing colonization in the West Bank and in Jerusalem, then this may happen. If 'improvement' means a comprehensive and long overdue re-set, then there will be no improvement."

Separately, a much wider majority of Security Insiders said that the GOP takeover of the Senate will make a nuclear deal with Iran less likely.

Of the 87 percent of Insiders who said a nuclear deal will be less likely, some said that a GOP-controlled Congress would be eager to shoot down the president's policy priorities. "The new Congress will be anxious to demonstrate they can rethink the issue and become more independent in what they see as overreach by the current administration," said one.

Or quite simply, said another, "If the White House is for it, the Republican Congress will be against it."

A number of Insiders said that increased Israeli influence over a Republican Congress makes opposition to a nuclear deal more likely. "Out of habit, fear, or both, U.S. senators usually acquiesce in the more extreme Israeli positions on Iran," one Insider said.

"Since Israel will have an even tighter grip on Congress and Israel is against any nuclear deal with Iran, the odds of an agreement have gone from slim to nil," said another.

But even though Congress is likely to try to stop a deal with Iran, one Insider said, it's in the country's best interest to pursue reconciliation. "As was true back in 1972 when Nixon recognized that the U.S. cannot simply ignore an emerging China, the same can be said about Iran in the Middle East. Like it or not, we have to move on from 1979 and deal with the reality of today, not the memories of 1979," the Insider said, referring to the hostage crisis that followed the Islamic revolution in Iran.

A number of Insiders who think a deal with Iran is less likely and some that think it's more likely said that the prospect of a Congress that's less friendly to dealing with Iran could light a fire under everybody at the negotiating table. "The administration should use the elections to tell Iran that Congress will pass new, harsher sanctions if Iran doesn't negotiate in good faith with the P5+1," one Insider said, referring to the group of world powers working alongside the U.S. to reach an agreement.

And one Insider said Obama will likely pour energy into pursuing a deal to chalk up a big foreign policy victory. "This is a legacy issue, with few other legacies around for him to claim," the Insider said.

Can a Republican Congress lead to improved U.S.-Israel relations? (50 responses)

Yes: 58 percentNo: 42 percent

Yes

"A Republican Congress will tend to be more pro-Israel, so that could change the tone in D.C. a bit vis-a-vis Israel. Nonetheless, the primary responsibility for the execution of our foreign policy lies, properly, with the executive branch. If the administration continues to alienate Israel, then there is little the Republican Congress can do to fix that relationship."

"Yes, but the price would be to prioritize Israeli national interests over American ones."

"Israel has long owned Congress lock, stock, and barrel, and the new Congress will only increase Israel's power. Thus, tragically, America's foreign policy in the Middle East will continue to be directed by Tel Aviv."

"If nothing else, a Republican Congress can derail a misguided agreement with Iran over its nuclear program. That step alone would go a long way toward improving relations with Israel."

"It will prevent Obama from doing even more damage to the relationship by making it more difficult for him to reach a bad nuclear agreement with Iran."

"Republicans are more willing than Democrats to threaten or use force against Israel's opponents, such as Iran."

"Actually how we, as a nation, deal with Iran will set the terms of our relationship with Israel for years to come. That tussle will involve the White House and many foreseen, and unforeseen, considerations and trade-offs."

"If for no other reason than there will be a more coherent consistent posture by Congress."

"Bilateral relations can't get any worse."

No

"U.S.-Israeli relations are broken right now. It is personal. And with Obama convinced that Bibi is trying to work around him with Republicans, the tension is likely to increase, rather than improve."

"Israel already has a great relationship with the Congress. It's Obama they have a problem with."

"Not for the next two years."

"Congress has been supportive of Israel. It is the executive branch that has been hanging them out to dry. That doesn't change with new Senate leadership."

"Not without compromising fundamental U.S. foreign policy positions."

"Depends on what you mean. If 'improvement' means acquiescing in [the] Israeli government's continuing colonization in the West Bank and in Jerusalem, then this may happen. If 'improvement' means a comprehensive and long overdue reset, then there will be no improvement."

"Considering that the problem in the relationship is not coming from the American side, no."

" 'Improved' only in the sense of overlooking the pathological aspects of the relationship but not leading to the sort of relations that would be in the best long-term interests of both countries. Bad U.S.-Israeli relations are rooted firmly in policies of the right-wing Israeli government that are contrary to U.S. interests."

"Regardless of political party, the relationship between U.S. administrations and Israel will remain strained. Each new U.S. administration wants a peace agreement and will attempt to press Israelis to compromise more than they are willing to do. Congress has different interest when different parties control branches of government."

"Not necessarily, because the president still wields a great deal of power and influence over the foreign policy process. Given President Obama's views about Israeli settlement policies and Israel's opposition to any agreement with Iran, I doubt we will see any major improvements."

Does the GOP takeover of the Senate make a nuclear deal with Iran more or less likely? (48 responses)

Less likely: 87 percentMore likely: 13 percent

Less likely

"If the administration continues to take a conciliatory line with Iran over the nuclear issue, the Republican-controlled Senate will reject any treaty that comes from the current round of negotiations. The administration will try to get a deal done before the new Senate majority is sworn in."

"If the White House is for it, the Republican Congress will be against it."

"The new Congress will be anxious to demonstrate they can rethink the issue and become more independent in what they see as overreach by the current administration."

"Those who have been trying to prevent any agreement with Iran on anything are smiling over how the election result has improved their chances of sabotaging a deal."

"Obama will probably do what he wants to do, sign a bad deal with Iran. Congress may put up opposition, but it will not mean much. Again, on a bipartisan basis, Congress has been opposed to what the president has been doing with Iran."

"Especially with the disclosure that the White House has been using back-channel negotiations with Iran to broker assistance on [the] anti-ISIL campaign."

"Even if a deal were reached, there will be some form of funding required to implement the U.S. side of it. Congress will most likely kill that unless more-experienced and savvy senators understand that this possible deal is only one step toward resolving the many issues the U.S. has with Iran. As was true back in 1972 when Nixon recognized that the U.S. cannot simply ignore an emerging China, the same can be said about Iran in the Middle East. Like it or not, we have to move on from 1979 and deal with the reality of today, not the memories of 1979."

"Long shot, but GOP control may convince Iranians they must be more forthcoming if they really desire an agreement."

"Not much less, though. They don't have the gumption to declare war, and Obama can ignore almost anything else they do with impunity."

"Out of habit, fear, or both, U.S. senators usually acquiesce in the more extreme Israeli positions on Iran."

"Since Israel will have an even tighter grip on Congress and Israel is against any nuclear deal with Iran, the odds of an agreement have gone from slim to nil."

More likely

"The administration should use the elections to tell Iran that Congress will pass new, harsher sanctions if Iran doesn't negotiate in good faith with the P5+1."

"The Iranians may want to strike a deal before Nov. 24."

"The Republicans are willing to put greater pressure on Iran in order to improve Western leverage for gaining an acceptable deal. Some Democrats take the illogical position that, although sanctions to date have helped bring Iran to the negotiating table, further sanctions would cause Iran to be less willing to negotiate. The uncertain prospects of obtaining a deal suggest that the West needs to apply more leverage. Sanctions can be effective as negotiating leverage, however, only if the West is prepared to relax them in the event an acceptable deal is reached and implemented in good faith."

"On balance more likely. This is a legacy issue, with few other legacies around for [Obama] to claim."

National Journal's National Security Insiders Poll is a periodic survey of more than 100 defense and foreign policy experts. They include: Gordon Adams, Charles Allen, Michael Allen, Thad Allen, Graham Allison, James Bamford, David Barno, Milt Bearden, Peter Bergen, Samuel "Sandy" Berger, David Berteau, Stephen Biddle, Nancy Birdsall, Marion Blakey, Kit Bond, Stuart Bowen, Mike Breen, Paula Broadwell, Mark Brunner, Nicholas Burns, Dan Byman, James Jay Carafano, Phillip Carter, Wendy Chamberlin, Michael Chertoff, Frank Cilluffo, James Clad, Richard Clarke, Steve Clemons, Joseph Collins, William Courtney, Lorne Craner, Roger Cressey, Gregory Dahlberg, Robert Danin, Richard Danzig, Janine Davidson, Daniel Drezner, Mackenzie Eaglen, Paul Eaton, Andrew Exum, Eric Farnsworth, Jacques Gansler, Stephen Ganyard, Daniel Goure, Mark Green, Mike Green, Mark Gunzinger, John Hamre, Jim Harper, Todd Harrison, Marty Hauser, Michael Hayden, Michael Herson, Pete Hoekstra, Bruce Hoffman, Paul Hughes, Mark Jackson, Colin Kahl, Donald Kerrick, Rachel Kleinfeld, Lawrence Korb, Andrew Krepinevich, Charlie Kupchan, W. Patrick Lang, Cedric Leighton, Michael Leiter, James Lindsay, Justin Logan, Trent Lott, Peter Mansoor, Ronald Marks, Brian McCaffrey, Steven Metz, Franklin Miller, Michael Morell, Philip Mudd, John Nagl, Shuja Nawaz, Kevin Nealer, Michael Oates, Thomas Pickering, Paul Pillar, Larry Prior, Stephen Rademaker, Marc Raimondi, Celina Realuyo, Barry Rhoads, Wilhelm Richard, Bruce Riedel, Marc Rotenberg, Frank Ruggiero, Gary Samore, Kori Schake, Mark Schneider, Tammy Schultz, John Scofield, Stephen Sestanovich, Sarah Sewall, Matthew Sherman, Jennifer Sims, Suzanne Spaulding, James Stavridis, Constanze Stelzenm├╝ller, Ted Stroup, Guy Swan, Frances Townsend, Mick Trainor, Tamara Wittes, Dov Zakheim, and Juan Zarate.

Can a Republican Congress lead to improved U.S.-Israel relations? (50 responses)

Yes: 58 percentNo: 42 percent

Yes

"A Republican Congress will tend to be more pro-Israel, so that could change the tone in D.C. a bit vis-a-vis Israel. Nonetheless, the primary responsibility for the execution of our foreign policy lies, properly, with the executive branch. If the administration continues to alienate Israel, then there is little the Republican Congress can do to fix that relationship."

"Yes, but the price would be to prioritize Israeli national interests over American ones."

"Israel has long owned Congress lock, stock, and barrel, and the new Congress will only increase Israel's power. Thus, tragically, America's foreign policy in the Middle East will continue to be directed by Tel Aviv."

"If nothing else, a Republican Congress can derail a misguided agreement with Iran over its nuclear program. That step alone would go a long way toward improving relations with Israel."

"It will prevent Obama from doing even more damage to the relationship by making it more difficult for him to reach a bad nuclear agreement with Iran."

"Republicans are more willing than Democrats to threaten or use force against Israel's opponents, such as Iran."

"Actually how we, as a nation, deal with Iran will set the terms of our relationship with Israel for years to come. That tussle will involve the White House and many foreseen, and unforeseen, considerations and trade-offs."

"If for no other reason than there will be a more coherent consistent posture by Congress."

"Bilateral relations can't get any worse."

No

"U.S.-Israeli relations are broken right now. It is personal. And with Obama convinced that Bibi is trying to work around him with Republicans, the tension is likely to increase, rather than improve."

"Israel already has a great relationship with the Congress. It's Obama they have a problem with."

"Not for the next two years."

"Congress has been supportive of Israel. It is the executive branch that has been hanging them out to dry. That doesn't change with new Senate leadership."

"Not without compromising fundamental U.S. foreign policy positions."

"Depends on what you mean. If 'improvement' means acquiescing in [the] Israeli government's continuing colonization in the West Bank and in Jerusalem, then this may happen. If 'improvement' means a comprehensive and long overdue reset, then there will be no improvement."

"Considering that the problem in the relationship is not coming from the American side, no."

" 'Improved' only in the sense of overlooking the pathological aspects of the relationship but not leading to the sort of relations that would be in the best long-term interests of both countries. Bad U.S.-Israeli relations are rooted firmly in policies of the right-wing Israeli government that are contrary to U.S. interests."

"Regardless of political party, the relationship between U.S. administrations and Israel will remain strained. Each new U.S. administration wants a peace agreement and will attempt to press Israelis to compromise more than they are willing to do. Congress has different interest when different parties control branches of government."

"Not necessarily, because the president still wields a great deal of power and influence over the foreign policy process. Given President Obama's views about Israeli settlement policies and Israel's opposition to any agreement with Iran, I doubt we will see any major improvements."

Does the GOP takeover of the Senate make a nuclear deal with Iran more or less likely? (48 responses)

Less likely: 87 percentMore likely: 13 percent

Less likely

"If the administration continues to take a conciliatory line with Iran over the nuclear issue, the Republican-controlled Senate will reject any treaty that comes from the current round of negotiations. The administration will try to get a deal done before the new Senate majority is sworn in."

"If the White House is for it, the Republican Congress will be against it."

"The new Congress will be anxious to demonstrate they can rethink the issue and become more independent in what they see as overreach by the current administration."

"Those who have been trying to prevent any agreement with Iran on anything are smiling over how the election result has improved their chances of sabotaging a deal."

"Obama will probably do what he wants to do, sign a bad deal with Iran. Congress may put up opposition, but it will not mean much. Again, on a bipartisan basis, Congress has been opposed to what the president has been doing with Iran."

"Especially with the disclosure that the White House has been using back-channel negotiations with Iran to broker assistance on [the] anti-ISIL campaign."

"Even if a deal were reached, there will be some form of funding required to implement the U.S. side of it. Congress will most likely kill that unless more-experienced and savvy senators understand that this possible deal is only one step toward resolving the many issues the U.S. has with Iran. As was true back in 1972 when Nixon recognized that the U.S. cannot simply ignore an emerging China, the same can be said about Iran in the Middle East. Like it or not, we have to move on from 1979 and deal with the reality of today, not the memories of 1979."

"Long shot, but GOP control may convince Iranians they must be more forthcoming if they really desire an agreement."

"Not much less, though. They don't have the gumption to declare war, and Obama can ignore almost anything else they do with impunity."

"Out of habit, fear, or both, U.S. senators usually acquiesce in the more extreme Israeli positions on Iran."

"Since Israel will have an even tighter grip on Congress and Israel is against any nuclear deal with Iran, the odds of an agreement have gone from slim to nil."

More likely

"The administration should use the elections to tell Iran that Congress will pass new, harsher sanctions if Iran doesn't negotiate in good faith with the P5+1."

"The Iranians may want to strike a deal before Nov. 24."

"The Republicans are willing to put greater pressure on Iran in order to improve Western leverage for gaining an acceptable deal. Some Democrats take the illogical position that, although sanctions to date have helped bring Iran to the negotiating table, further sanctions would cause Iran to be less willing to negotiate. The uncertain prospects of obtaining a deal suggest that the West needs to apply more leverage. Sanctions can be effective as negotiating leverage, however, only if the West is prepared to relax them in the event an acceptable deal is reached and implemented in good faith."

"On balance more likely. This is a legacy issue, with few other legacies around for [Obama] to claim."

National Journal's National Security Insiders Poll is a periodic survey of more than 100 defense and foreign policy experts. They include: Gordon Adams, Charles Allen, Michael Allen, Thad Allen, Graham Allison, James Bamford, David Barno, Milt Bearden, Peter Bergen, Samuel "Sandy" Berger, David Berteau, Stephen Biddle, Nancy Birdsall, Marion Blakey, Kit Bond, Stuart Bowen, Mike Breen, Paula Broadwell, Mark Brunner, Nicholas Burns, Dan Byman, James Jay Carafano, Phillip Carter, Wendy Chamberlin, Michael Chertoff, Frank Cilluffo, James Clad, Richard Clarke, Steve Clemons, Joseph Collins, William Courtney, Lorne Craner, Roger Cressey, Gregory Dahlberg, Robert Danin, Richard Danzig, Janine Davidson, Daniel Drezner, Mackenzie Eaglen, Paul Eaton, Andrew Exum, Eric Farnsworth, Jacques Gansler, Stephen Ganyard, Daniel Goure, Mark Green, Mike Green, Mark Gunzinger, John Hamre, Jim Harper, Todd Harrison, Marty Hauser, Michael Hayden, Michael Herson, Pete Hoekstra, Bruce Hoffman, Paul Hughes, Mark Jackson, Colin Kahl, Donald Kerrick, Rachel Kleinfeld, Lawrence Korb, Andrew Krepinevich, Charlie Kupchan, W. Patrick Lang, Cedric Leighton, Michael Leiter, James Lindsay, Justin Logan, Trent Lott, Peter Mansoor, Ronald Marks, Brian McCaffrey, Steven Metz, Franklin Miller, Michael Morell, Philip Mudd, John Nagl, Shuja Nawaz, Kevin Nealer, Michael Oates, Thomas Pickering, Paul Pillar, Larry Prior, Stephen Rademaker, Marc Raimondi, Celina Realuyo, Barry Rhoads, Wilhelm Richard, Bruce Riedel, Marc Rotenberg, Frank Ruggiero, Gary Samore, Kori Schake, Mark Schneider, Tammy Schultz, John Scofield, Stephen Sestanovich, Sarah Sewall, Matthew Sherman, Jennifer Sims, Suzanne Spaulding, James Stavridis, Constanze Stelzenm├╝ller, Ted Stroup, Guy Swan, Frances Townsend, Mick Trainor, Tamara Wittes, Dov Zakheim, and Juan Zarate.

This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.