Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, addressed Congress today. Prior to his speech, Netanyahu’s visit to the U.S. was controversial in light of the U.S.’s ongoing nuclear talks with Iran.
Netanyahu was invited to adrress Congress by the GOP, and more than 50 Democrats decided to skip the event. President Barack Obama has also decided not to meet with Netanyahu ahead of Israel’s upcoming elections.
Netanyahu tried to defuse some of the political tension by praising Obama’s support for Israel. “I deeply regret that some perceive my being here as political,” he said. “That was never my intention. I want to thank you, Democrats and Republicans, for your common support for Israel, year after year, decade after decade.”
The diplomacy of Netanyahu’s greetings did not detract from his dire warnings about Iran’s nuclear program, which is the subject of negotiations with the U.S.
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Netanyahu argued that the deal the U.S., along with some European countries, Russia and China, is trying to negotiate with Iran does not make the country less dangerous. The goal of the deal is to limit the amount of enriched uranium Iran can produce in exchange for reducing existing economic sanctions against the country. If the deal is successful, it would take Iran at least a year to make a nuclear weapon, giving the U.S. and its allies time to intervene.
Netanyahu wants Iran to give up all of its uranium-enrichment efforts.
"This is a bad deal — a very bad deal," Netanyahu told Congress. “We're better off without it.”
He claimed Iran is an existential threat to Israel. “Iran’s supreme leader ... spews the oldest hatred of anti-Semitism with the newest technology," Netanyahu said. "He tweets that Israel must be ... destroyed.”
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The U.S. is currently working with Iran to battle the terrorist group Islamic State, also known as ISIS, but that did not quell Netanyahu’s uneasiness. “This regime will always be an enemy of America,” Netanyahu said. “Don’t be fooled. The battle between Iran and ISIS doesn’t turn Iran into a friend of America. Iran and ISIS are competing for the crown of militant Islam.”
Netanyahu ended his speech with a quote from Moses: “Be strong and resolute.” He was greeted with a standing ovation.
Two hours after Netanyahu’s address, Obama defended the U.S.'s negotiations with Iran. “The prime minister didn’t offer any viable alternative,” Obama said. “The alternative the prime minister offers is no deal, in which case Iran will immediately begin once again to pursue a nuclear program, accelerate its nuclear program, without us having any insight into what they’re doing and without constraints.”
Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-California), the party’s House leader, said in a statement that she was “saddened by the insult to the intelligence of the United States” and “the condescension toward our knowledge of the threat posed by Iran.”