One important aspect of the Iranian nuclear agreement is the serious issue that it raises between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This is, of course, not the only disagreement that recently has arisen between them.

Serious problems began with the prime minister’s inappropriate decision to accept the hyper partisan invitation from House Speaker John Bohner to address the Congress. I support those members who refused to attend this effort to intrude deeply into American politics.

Since I am no longer a member of the House, the question of my attendance was moot, but if I had been there, I would not have been there. A recent letter to this newspaper argued that Rep. Chellie Pingree from Maine’s 1st District was setting a bad example for young people by refusing to listen to an opposing argument. Nonsense.

Declining to attend that speech was in no way a refusal to hear what the prime minister said. It was entirely legitimate for Netanyahu to make his views known in America, but no one seriously believes that he could only have done that by addressing a joint congressional session in a way that was meant to undercut the president. What those who skipped the session did was to show their disapproval of a partisan political maneuver.

The sharp differences that have emerged between Obama and Netanyahu pose a problem for the many Americans who are strongly supportive of Israel’s rights to exist as a free, democratic Jewish state, the only outpost of democracy in the region. But Netanyahu himself has shown how we can respond: by continuing our strong support for Israel while making clear our disagreements with him.

This became particularly important when in his effort to win re-election, he repudiated the long-standing policy of Israeli support for a two-state solution, maintained by all his predecessors.

True, he later sought to retract the statement, but he was not able to undo the damage, he inflicted on Israel’s position in the world.

It has been and still is important for Israel to express its willingness to make peace on reasonable terms, which means a guarantee of its own security and the creation of an independent Palestinian state if it finds Palestinian partners willing to make a fair agreement. In fact, the failure to achieve such a solution until now has been much more the fault of the Palestinians than anyone else. At the urging of President Clinton in 2000, the Israeli government made it clear it was willing to accept a legitimate two-state solution, only to have the Palestinians under Yasser Arafat reject it. Subsequent efforts led by Prime Minister Ehud Ohlmert, met with similar failure caused by the inability of the Arab side to muster sufficient political courage to accept it. A recent article by Roger Cohen in the New York Times accurately reported the views of Tzipi Livni, a leader of Netanyahu’s political opposition, documenting a series of Palestinian efforts that were obstructive of a genuine peace.

This does not mean that Israel has been entirely without fault. The settlement policy, aggressively pursued by Netanyahu, has clearly given ammunition to those on the Palestinian side who are unwilling to accept a treaty that reflects reality.

Given the history in that region, which begins with an Arab assault on Israel immediately after the UN proclaimed that it should be allowed to exist as an independent state, and continuing through a series of attacks by all of its neighbors through the mid-1970’s, Israel is clearly not obligated to accept whatever terms Palestinians seek. Israeli wariness gains legitimacy from the fact that in those cases where Israel voluntarily withdrew from territory it had captured essentially in its own self-defense, especially in southern Lebanon and in Gaza, the result was the establishment of regimes totally hostile to Israel’s existence.

In light of this history, the appropriate position is that Israel is obligated to show its continued willingness to make peace, but cannot be held responsible for the failure of such efforts. What Netanyahu did was undermine Israel’s ability to make that argument convincingly in world opinion.

Indeed, it is a mark of Netanyahu’s decision to put domestic political concerns ahead of the need to maintain international support to protect Israel that in much of Western Europe, Israel has been criticized much more harshly than the murderous fanatics who seek to abolish it. I strongly disagree with those European nations that have unilaterally declared support for a Palestinian state. But it is not possible to ignore the contribution that Israeli policies have made to the growth of that sentiment.

This means that appropriate response is for America to insist that no future expansions of settlements take place, while maintaining full support of Israel’s right to a safe existence as a Jewish state.

As a supporter of Israel, I find this an easy position to take because the settlements are not only a detriment to Israel’s position in the world. They are expensive and with few exceptions weaken rather than strengthen its security. The fact that Israel is the only society in that region which exemplifies the values of liberal democracy – free elections, freedom of expression, religious freedom and support for the rights of women, the rights of LGBT people, etc. – is an important part of the support Israel justly receives in America. When a handful of settlers engage in abusive activity and are not sufficiently disciplined by the Israeli government, that appeal is lessened.

America must not abandon its position of defending Israel in the UN against the unfair attacks which have been a very unfortunate part of the UN’s record in this regard. And continued cooperation between America and Israel in the military area is important, especially in light of the increasingly brutal activity that tragically is increasing in the Arab world. But strong American pressure to halt the settlements is not only morally justified; it is in Israel’s best interest.

Those who disagree with Netanyahu’s choices must not be deterred by the argument that we would be intruding in Israeli domestic affairs by voicing their position. By his actions he has made it very clear that he wishes for Republican control of America’s government. It is entirely legitimate in response for many of us to make clear that we will continue to support Israel’s legitimate needs, but that we believe Netanyahu’s approach is mistaken.

Barney Frank is a retired congressman and the author of landmark legislation. He divides his time between Maine and Massachusetts.

Twitter: BarneyFrank