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Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, center, speaks during a joint meeting of Congress with U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, top left, and Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah and president pro tempore of the Senate, in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, March 3, 2015. Netanyahu said he had no political motives in appearing before the U.S. Congress and that the U.S. and Israel share "a common destiny." Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Benjamin Netanyahu; John Boehner; Orrin HatchAndrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, did not make clear, in his speech to the U.S. Congress on Tuesday, just what kind of agreement he could accept with Iran on its nuclear program.

He did, however, say, "Iran's nuclear program can be rolled back, well beyond the current proposal, by insisting on a better deal."

"Better" is, of course, a relative term. And "better" is better than nothing. It leaves open a possibility that there is some modest number of Iranian nuclear centrifuges – enough, say, for a civil nuclear reactor – that Israel, and the world, could tolerate. Fewer rather than more centrifuges would lengthen the period it would take for Iran to make enough highly enriched uranium to build a nuclear bomb – the "breakout time" in nuclear-arms dialect – if Tehran decides to violate a deal resulting from these negotiations.

It's unfortunate that partisan, electoral politics in Israel and the United States have eclipsed the extremely important underlying debate on the Iranian nuclear program. It has turned a sideshow, a contest between Mr. Netanyahu and President Barack Obama, into the main attraction.

The real item at the top of the playbill are the negotiations with Iran. If these lead to Iran abandoning its long march to nuclear weapons, that's the definition of success. To the degree that objective is not achieved, Mr. Netanyahu, for all of his counterproductive bluster, will have a point.

The world's negotiators with Iran, known as the P5 + 1 – the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany – must be ready to walk away from the negotiations, if the deal doesn't significantly impair Iran's nuclear program.

But there is no reason for the Israeli government to want to abort the negotiations. If they fail, the Iranians will still be subject to more severe sanctions, but Iran's rulers may at the same time feel freer than ever to continue enriching uranium and building centrifuges. And the starter's pistol may be fired for a Middle Eastern nuclear arms race; Pakistan is reportedly willing to supply Saudi Arabia.

In other words, the Republicans in Congress should not come away from Mr. Netanyahu's speech thinking that they are Winston Churchill opposing the Munich Pact in 1938, or that they must vote against any agreement with Iran. An agreement is desirable. It's by far the best outcome. But only if it's a good agreement.