In a controversial speech to US lawmakers, Israeli PM Netanyahu cautioned that the proposed deal with Iran would not stop or slow down its production of nuclear bombs. In fact, it would do the opposite, he argued.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received an enthusiastic welcome in the House Chamber on Tuesday before he began his record third speech to a joint meeting of Congress. He opened his talk on the subject of nuclear negotiations with Iran by thanking the gathered lawmakers, and insisting that the purpose of his address had nothing to do with upcoming elections he faces back home.
The prime minister, nicknamed "Bibi," shared his deep "regret that some perceive my being here as political," referring to the more than 50 Democratic members of both houses of Congress that declined to attend the speech, as well as Vice President Joe Biden, who is president of the Senate. Some Democrats saw the speech as inappropriate considering the Israeli elections in two weeks, while others resented the idea of a foreign leader inserting himself in US foreign policy, according to reports.
President Obama's former campaign manager and one-time senior advisor, made his feelings known on Twitter:
While Republicans, who extended the controversial invitation to Netanyahu, criticized the Obama administration for allegedly allowing Iran to make nuclear weapons by offering concession to Tehran:
This sentiment was echoed by Netanyahu in his speech, wherein he warned that making a deal based on allowing Iran to keep its nuclear infrastructure and relying on international monitors would "spark a nuclear arms race" in the "most dangerous part of the planet." He reminded Congress that the same tack had been tried in North Korea and had failed.
"Deadly game of thrones"
The prime minister was careful to thank President Obama for supporting Israel, and was equally deliberate in stressing that he was speaking of the Iranian government, and not Iranian people, when he spoke of "the foremost sponsor of terrorism."
Netanyahu did not mince words however, accusing Tehran of controlling the governments of Baghdad, Beirut, and Sanaa, and of supporting the Assad regime in what he called a "deadly game of thrones."
He warned the US lawmakers not to be fooled into thinking that just because Iran was against the "Islamic State" (IS) terrorists, that it was a friendly nation. He argued that Tehran, along with its "goons in Gaza and lackeys in Lebanon" sought to establish its own all-encompassing Islamist regime.
He slammed the proposed deal to curb Iran's nuclear program, or at least the "certain elements" which have become public knowledge, as a "bad deal" that will do nothing to slow down the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and rejected the argument there was no alternative.
Netanyahu asks Congress to call Tehran's "bluff"
He encouraged Congress to reject any current deal: "Call their bluff," the Israeli PM said, "they need the deal much more than you do."
Netanyahu wrapped up his talk with a quote from Moses to "be strong and resolute", coming full circle from his opening comparison of the present situation to the biblical story of Purim - in which the Jewish Queen Esther and her cousin Mordecai foil a Persian plot to destroy the Jewish people.
Wiesel, pictured here in 2008, is the most prominent Holocaust survivor living in the United States
The prime minister received no less than ten standing ovations at different points in his speech, but the most sustained round of applause was for Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, who was in attendance. Netanyahu called Wiesel a living testament "not to repeat the mistakes of the past."
Prime Minister Netanyahu is only the second foreign leader ever invited to address Congress three times - the other being British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill. According to CNN, Netanyahu was gifted a bust of Churchill by some members of Congress to mark this achievement.
After the speech, President Obama told reporters he had not watched it, but had read a transcript. Reuters news agency reported that Obama said he saw "nothing new" in Netanyahu's remarks, and that the prime minister had not offered any viable alternatives on preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons.