During the next few weeks, the U.S. Congress will be debating what is arguably the most important foreign policy issue to come before it since the vote on joining the League of Nations after World War I. Despite a passionate plea for approval by the Democratic president, Woodrow Wilson, Congress rejected U.S. membership in the league. We don't know what approval would have brought. Rejection eventually resulted in World War II.
Other important foreign policy decisions of recent years were the Panama Canal Treaty in 1978, allowing Panama to take control of the canal's operation, approved narrowly, and with much political blood on the floor, including President Jimmy Carter and Sen. Herman Talmadge, both of Georgia, who felt the canal was a factor in their 1980 defeats.
Then in 1990 and 2002, Congress approved the use of U.S. troops to invade Iraq.
Those were exceptions to the rule that Congress usually supports the president on foreign policy decisions, and rightly so. In the case of the looming battle over approval of the agreement reached this month among Iran, the U.S., Great Britain, Russia, China, Spain and the European Union, and Turkey, the arguments would seem to be overwhelmingly on the side of approval.
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Instead, we are hearing ridiculous charges that approval will bring on World War III, another Holocaust, Armageddon and various other calamities.
But the question before Congress will finally come down to: Who decides U.S. foreign policy at the highest levels -- the president, the secretary of state, the other top-ranked U.S. officials who are given that authority by the U.S. Constitution, or by outside nations that have undue influence on enough members of Congress?
Sadly, that is the case, and the nation with the influence and the most adamant opposition to the agreement is one that has been unswervingly supported by the U.S. since its founding, both with money and weapons, and with crucial votes in the United Nations when most U.N. members were voting the other way.
That nation, of course, is Israel, one of the smallest geographic countries in the world, with a population of 7.9 million (smaller that Georgia's), mostly Jewish, with the rest Arabic.
They live together in an uneasy peace, often broken by attacks from surrounding Arab nations. Israel has had to fight for existence from the day it was founded in May 1948, when armies from Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia attacked.
With the help of its great ally, the United States, which immediately recognized Israel as a legitimate state, the small nation survived and, through the diligence of its citizens, has grown and flourished for the last 70 years. Efforts for a lasting peace between Israel and its neighbors have been ongoing and partially successful, as with Egypt, but cut short by such tragedies as the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin by an Israeli extremist who opposed Rabin's peace efforts.
Iran was not one of the nations which attacked Israel in several wars since 1948, but Israel charges that Iran supports terrorist groups that oppose Israel and that its nuclear program eventually poses a threat to Israel's existence.
The agreement reached in Vienna provides a peaceful solution to Israel's problems, including strong support of the U.S., which is the key to its survival. Its relatively small population is microscopic in a sea of more than 20 million Arabs. Tehran, the capital of Iran, alone has more people that Israel.
Where Israel stands out, and surpasses its larger neighbors, is its Gross National Product, which at $273 billion is more than Iraq's $249 billion (World Almanac 2015) although Iraq had a population of 32 million to Israel's 7 million.
In many respects, Israel has the brightest future -- especially in the good things in life for its people -- of any Middle East nation.
What it needs is peace and security, which can be assured only with the good grace of the U.S. and acceptance of accords agreed to by seven of the major nations of the world.
Even if the U.S. should back away from this agreement, the terms would still be carried through by other nations involved, leaving the U.S, and Israel alone to oppose them.
Republicans in Congress possibly see a rejection of the agreement as a chance to take the majority of the Jewish vote in the U.S. away from its longtime home in the Democratic Party, along with the influence and financing that carries.
This unlikely conflict also carries the danger of reviving a latent anti-Semitic sentiment in the U.S., if Americans see Israel as controlling American foreign policy, not to mention the Republican Party.
This is an unfortunate conflict which should not be happening.
Almost all of the rest of the world -- except for the terrorists -- favors the course the U.S. team supported in Vienna, led by John Kerry, a longtime senator, a Vietnam veteran, and as strong a friend of Israel as the Senate has had.
What Israel needs is the security of peace -- which is what the deal offers.