Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to a joint session of Congress Tuesday in defiance of the White House, as tensions between the U.S. and Israel escalate over a possible nuclear deal with Iran. President Obama later said the speech didn’t “offer any viable alternatives.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used his highly anticipated speech Tuesday to the U.S. Congress to warn about what he sees are the dangers of a nuclear deal between Iran and the United States.
“(The) deal will not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, it would all but guarantee Iran gets those weapons, lots of them,” Netanyahu said.
“We must now choose between two paths. One path leads to a bad deal that will, at best, curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions for a while, but it will inexorably lead to a nuclear-armed Iran whose unbridled aggression will inevitably lead to war. The second path, however difficult, could lead to a much better deal that would prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, a nuclearized Middle East, and the horrific consequences of both to all of humanity.”
The address has become a partisan political issue in the U.S. and an increasingly public display of deep disagreements between the Obama administration and Netanyahu over how to address Iran’s nuclear program, as well as the tensions between the White House and the Israeli prime minister.
President Obama later said he read a transcript of the speech and said it “didn’t offer any viable alternatives” and added “there was nothing new.”
Netanyahu touched upon the controversy surrounding his speech, saying, “I know that my speech has been the subject of much controversy. I deeply regret that some perceive my being here as political. That was never my intention.”
Throughout his address, Netanyahu painted a picture of an Iran that is dangerous to Israel and the rest of the world.
“Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei spews the oldest hatred, the oldest hatred of anti-Semitism with the newest technology. He tweets that Israel must be annihilated. He tweets. In Iran there isn’t exactly free Internet, but he tweets in English that Israel must be destroyed,” Netanyahu said.
“The greatest danger facing our world is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons. To defeat ISIS and let Iran get nuclear weapons would be to win the battle but lose the war. We can’t let that happen,” Netanyahu said to a standing ovation, one of several.
House Speaker John Boehner invited Netanyahu to speak before a joint session of Congress, without informing the White House of the invitation. Obama will not meet with Netanyahu, citing prior practice of not meeting with foreign leaders close to when their country holds elections. Netanyahu is up for election on March 17.
President Obama told Reuters in an interview Monday that Iran must halt its nuclear program for at least a decade if it ever hopes to see sanctions ease.