Netanyahu addresses pro-Israel lobby group in U.S.
THE Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has delivered a speech before America’s largest pro-Israel lobby, to make a case against a nuclear deal the President Barack Obama administration is negotiating with Iran.
Netanyahu spoke to members of the American Israel Pubic Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington DC yesterday, a day before he is to deliver a similar speech before the U.S. Congress.
“Iran is the foremost state sponsor of terrorism in the world,” he said. “As prime minister, I have a moral obligation to speak up while there is still time to avert them.”
Israel fears that U.S. President Obama’s Iran diplomacy, with an end-of-March deadline for a framework accord, will allow Iran to develop atomic weapons, something the country denies seeking.
By accepting an invitation from the Republican Party to come to the U.S. and address the opposition-controlled Congress today, Netanyahu angered the Obama administration.
He has described his trip to the U.S. as a “historic mission.”
A senior Israeli official said on Netanyahu’s flight that Congress could be “the last brake” for stopping a nuclear deal with Iran.
Also addressing the 16,000 AIPAC delegates are Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, and Susan Rice, national security adviser, who last week criticised Netanyahu’s upcoming speech as “destructive” to the US-Israeli relations.
“The United States will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon, period,” Power said ahead of Netanyahu’s speech. “There will never be a sunset on America’s commitment to Israel’s security.”
A member of Netanyahu’s entourage told journalists travelling with him on Sunday that there was no intention to offend Obama.
“We are trying to explain to the Americans what is causing us concern,” he said on condition of anonymity.
“We know a great deal about the emerging agreement … . In our view, it is a bad agreement.”
The official would not indicate the source of the “excellent information” Israelis have about the deal between Iran and the so-called P5+1 group that would prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.
But he said Netanyahu would elaborate in his congressional address.
U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, reiterated U.S. determination to pursue negotiations with Iran, saying on Sunday the U.S. deserved “the benefit of the doubt” to see if a nuclear deal could be reached.
He noted that he talked to Netanyahu on Saturday, saying: “We don’t want to see this turned into some great political football.”
Israel and the U.S. agreed that the main goal was to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, he said.
In remarks on Saturday at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, Netanyahu said: “I would like to take this opportunity to say that I respect U.S. President Barack Obama.”
He said he believed in the strong bilateral ties and “that strength will prevail over differences of opinion, those in the past and those yet to come”.
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