WASHINGTON – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that his controversial upcoming address to the U.S. Congress is “not intended to show any disrespect to President Obama or the office that he holds.”
Netanyahu spoke to supporters in Washington on the eve of his speech to Congress, which was the second day of the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, the chief pro-Israeli lobbying group in the U.S.
At that forum, the Israeli leader said that, despite their differences, his country’s relations with the United States “are stronger than ever.”
The White House considers Netanyahu’s appearance in Congress an offense against protocol that only makes worse the existing lack of agreement between the Israeli prime minister and Obama.
The Israeli prime minister, who within two weeks will be up for reelection, said that his “intent is also not to inject Israel into the American partisan debate.”
“An important reason why our alliance has grown stronger in decade after decade is that it has been championed by both parties and so it must remain,” he said.
Nonetheless, those relations appear closer with the Republicans who invited the Israeli prime minister to come give a speech before a joint session of Congress, which, according to Netanyahu, will serve as a platform to “speak up about a potential deal with Iran” and its nuclear program.”
Netanyahu, who called the Iranian regime the biggest sponsor of terrorism, said that the proposed accord between the United States and another five countries with Iran “could threaten the survival of Israel.”
“I plan to speak about an Iranian regime that is threatening to destroy Israel, that’s devouring country and 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,” the Israeli prime minister said.
“The days when the Jewish people are passive in the face of threats to annihilate us – those days are over,” Netanyahu said in slamming any accord that would allow Iran to maintain a certain capability for enriching uranium for pacific uses if it agrees to a program of inspections.
The U.S. Congress has prepared a new package of sanctions against Iran with the support of Democratic and Republican legislators while waiting to evaluate the progress made in discussions among the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.
Those powers and Iran will hold a new round of talks in Switzerland which should lead to a basic accord by the end of the month.
Speaking on behalf of the White House before the 16,000 people attending the AIPAC gathering was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, who at first got a rather chilly reception.
Power did not win loud and lasting applause until she said, “We believe firmly that Israel’s security and the U.S.-Israeli partnership transcends politics and always will.”
The diplomat said that a certain tension between the two governments will not affect the strength of bilateral relations because “this partnership cannot be politicized... and it cannot, and will not, be broken. The stakes are too high for that.”