Netanyahu Says He Respects Obama But Has No Choice and Must Speak Out on Iran

AFP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

JERUSALEM —Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday he respects President Barack Obama but stressed he has no choice but to travel to America to lobby against a nuclear deal with Iran.

“I respect the White House and the U.S. president but on a serious subject, it’s my duty to do everything for Israel’s security,” Netanyahu said during a campaign rally at a West Bank settlement.

“Under the agreement that is being prepared, we have reason to worry… if the world powers have reached an agreement with Iran,” he added.

Netanyahu’s government has always opposed a deal with Tehran over its nuclear program, and he is to address the U.S. Congress on the subject on Tuesday at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican.

Secretary of State John Kerry goes before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Capitol Hill in Washington Tuesday to outline the budget requests for America’s diplomacy operations. Saying ‘Iran will not get a nuclear weapon,’ Kerry defended the Obama administration’s nuclear negotiations with Iran.  Applewhite/AP

Obama and other Democrats have said they will not attend the speech, with the president saying his attendance would be seen as partisan ahead of Israeli elections on March 17.

U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice said on Wednesday that Netanyahu’s acceptance of the invitation to address the Congress without the White House’s blessing was “destructive” to U.S.-Israeli ties.

U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

U.S., ISRAEL TRADE BARBS OVER IRAN TALKS: Top U.S. officials sharpened efforts to undermine Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of his visit to Washington next week as tensions rose over his push to scuttle a possible nuclear deal with Iran. At what U.S. officials say is a historic low point in relations between the longtime allies, the White House now sees Mr. Netanyahu as a serious threat to President Barack Obama’s efforts to reach an agreement with Iran to limit its nuclear program.

 

U.S. officials are deliberately moving to undercut the Israeli leader’s influence ahead of his controversial speech to Congress next week by casting him as opposing any deal with Iran regardless of the terms. Secretary of State John Kerry questioned the Israeli leader’s judgment, saying he may be wrong about the Iran talks just as he was wrong in his support of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Members of Mr. Netanyahu’s inner circle described him as caught between the objectives of maintaining good relations with the White House and protecting Israel from an Iranian threat. In the end, they said Iran took priority. Carol E. Lee, Michael R. Crittenden and Nicholas Casey report.

Plus: In Iran, there is a tightknit community of middlemen that help Iranian companies navigate the maze of financial and trade restrictions imposed on their country by the U.S. and its allies.

–Compiled by Rebecca Ballhaus

CAROL E. LEE’S EARLY HIT: WHITE HOUSE TO SEND SENIOR OFFICIAL TO PRO-ISRAEL CONFERENCE
The White House’s choice of who to send to address a conference next week hosted by Washington’s strongest pro-Israel lobby will be a closely watched decision likely to be interpreted as a sign of the value President Obama places on U.S.-Israeli relations. The White House is trying to differentiate between Mr. Netanyahu’s speech before Congress, which they oppose, and the AIPAC conference, which is poised to be the largest gathering of American Jews and supporters of Israel in recent history. Read Carol E. Lee’s full post on Washington Wire.

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