WASHINGTON (AP) — In a speech that stirred political intrigue in two countries, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Congress on Tuesday that negotiations underway between Iran and the United States would “all but guarantee” that Tehran will get nuclear weapons, a step that the world must avoid at all costs.
“Iran has proven time and again that it cannot be trusted,” no matter what it says about permitting verification of the terms of any accord designed to prevent it from getting such weapons, he said.
“The greatest danger facing our world is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons,” he said in remarks before a packed House chamber.
Netanyahu spoke shortly after Secretary of State John Kerry met for more than two hours in Switzerland with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in hopes of completing an international framework agreement later this month to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
The Israeli leader’s appeal also came two weeks before elections in which he is seeking a new term — and after the invitation to address Congress extended by House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, triggered a political furor in the United States. More than four dozen House and Senate Democrats said in advance they would not attend the event, a highly unusual move given historically close ties between the two allies.
The White House expressed its displeasure with the appearance by word and deed, dispatching Vice President Joe Biden on an overseas trip that meant he did not fill his customary seat behind the House rostrum during the speech. Nor did Netanyahu meet at the White House with Obama on his trip to the United States.
The prime minister was greeted with a roaring welcome as he walked down the same center aisle of the House chamber that presidents tread before their annual State of the Union speeches.
He also sought to smooth over any political unpleasantness, thanking Obama lavishly for the help he has given Israel since he became president. In a grace note, he took a moment to mention Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, who is back at work after suffering an eye injury in an accident at home.
At the same time, Netanyahu was unrelenting in his condemnation of the negotiations the administration is conducting with Tehran.
He said that with the concessions the United States was prepared to make Iran would not only gain nuclear weapons, but also eventually would become free of international economic sanctions. As a result, he said, it would be emboldened to finance even more terrorism around the Middle East and the world.
The result for Iran, he said, would be “aggression abroad and prosperity at home.”
Instead, he said that if Iran wants to be “treated like a normal country, it ought to behave like a normal country.”
WASHINGTON (AP) — Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken says he will skip Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech on Tuesday
Franken, who is Jewish, said the event has become a “partisan spectacle” in part because House Speaker John Boehner arranged it without first advising President Barack Obama. Franken said it’s also inappropriate coming a few weeks before the Israeli elections. The former Saturday Night Live writer and actor said he’d feel uncomfortable being part of an event that, “I don’t believe should be happening.”
Read more on WTOP.com.
When President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took office early in 2009, there were plenty of reasons to expect their relationship would be difficult.
The cerebral president and the brash prime minister have stark differences in personality, politics and world view.
Still, few could have predicted the downward spiral of backbiting, lecturing and outright name-calling that has occurred.
Start with the differences between Obama and Netanyahu, add in disagreements over Iran’s nuclear program, a Republican-led Congress trying to assert itself and the coming Israeli elections, and it becomes “the perfect storm of potential broken crockery in the U.S.-Israeli relationship,” says the Wilson Center’s Aaron Miller, who was a Mideast adviser and negotiator for Republican and Democratic administrations.
A look at how the dynamic between Obama and Netanyahu has played out over the years can be found on WTOP.com.
Dueling rallies during Netanyahu's address
According to the advocacy group “ANSWER Coalition,” protesters will meet on the north side of the U.S. Capitol Building to voice their opposition to the Netanyahu address. They claim the prime minister’s stance on Iran, including his desire for additional sanctions, is liable to spark a war against Iran involving Israel and the U.S.
In a news release, protesters said it was “an outrage” Netanyahu was invited to speak in front of Congress.
Meanwhile, on the west end of the U.S. Capitol Building, pro-Netanyahu demonstrators will gather in a show of support.
An advocacy group called “Endowment for Middle East Truth” issued a statement, saying the rally is meant to focus on the “imminent danger of a nuclear Iran.” According to the group, a nuclear deal with Iran would be a threat to Israel, the U.S. and other nations around the world.
Nuclear talks are ongoing between Iran and six world powers, known as “p5+1.”
Netanyahu has said any nuclear deal with Iran would threaten Israel’s survival, while the Obama administration claims a potential deal would allow the international community to ensure Iran does not become armed with a nuclear weapon.
Read more on WTOP.com.
Netanyahu to use Congress’ bully pulpit to assail Iran talks
WASHINGTON (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seizing the bully pulpit of the U.S. House to deliver his stern message about the danger Iran poses to his nation’s survival and voice reservations about any nuclear deal President Barack Obama and international negotiators might sign with Israel’s archenemy.
Netanyahu insists he is privy to emerging details of a deal and is expected to lay out specific concerns in Tuesday’s speech to a joint meeting of Congress. It will be a last-ditch effort for Netanyahu to speak out against any agreement that would leave open a chance for Tehran to develop nuclear weapons.
The controversial speech comes just two weeks ahead of a tight national election in which Netanyahu is fighting to hold onto his job. It has already aggravated strained relations between Israel and the Obama administration and it comes as negotiators are rushing to reach a nuclear agreement by the end of the month.
“I plan to speak about an Iranian regime that is threatening to destroy Israel, that’s devouring country after country in the Middle East, that’s exporting terror throughout the world and that is developing, as we speak, the capacity to make nuclear weapons — lots of them,” Netanyahu told America’s leading pro-Israel lobby on Monday in what amounted to a warm-up to his speech to Congress.
Read more on WTOP.com.
But a foreign leader denouncing U.S. policy from within the grand hall of American democracy upends nearly two centuries of tradition.
A joint meeting of Congress, gathering senators and representatives together in the House chamber, is a ceremony typically bestowed on one or two friendly foreign leaders per year. It looks a lot like a presidential State of the Union address. The speaker embodies his or her nation; the audience of lawmakers represents all Americans.
Unity and shared purpose are the standard themes. Standing ovations are a given.
“It establishes there is a strong bond between the two nations,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center. “In that context, a speech that provokes controversy at home or abroad is problematic.”
Read the full story here.
3/3 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel Address to a Joint Meeting of Congress
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