(JNS.org) A day before his much-debated speech about Iran to a joint session of Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to assure the 16,000 people attending the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference that current tension will not derail the countries’ friendship.
The prime minister declared to AIPAC that reports of the demise of the U.S.-Israel alliance are premature and wrong.
“Disagreements in the family are always uncomfortable, but we must always remember that we are family,” he said.
The White House and some Democratic legislators have opposed Netanyahu’s Congress speech on the grounds that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) did not consult President Barack Obama about inviting the prime minister. While Obama and Netanyahu would normally meet when the latter visits Washington, the White House refused a meeting with the prime minister during this visit, citing the trip’s close proximity to Israel’s March 17 election.
Netanyahu initially struck a playful tone on his Congress speech, telling the AIPAC crowd, “You know, never has so much been written about a speech that has never been given.” Then, he proceeded to address what he called misperceptions about his Congressional talk.
“My speech is not intended to show any disrespect to President Obama or the esteemed office that he holds. I have great respect for both,” he said.
The speech to Congress is also not intended to inject Israel into the American partisan debate, Netanyahu said, noting that the U.S.-Israel alliance “has been championed by both parties, and so it must remain.” He said he regrets that some “have misperceived” his latest U.S. visit as partisan in nature.
The true purpose of Netanyahu’s Congress speech, said the prime minister, is “to speak up about a potential deal with Iran that could threaten the survival of Israel.” Pointing to a map on a screen behind him, Netanyahu described how Iran is “training, arming, dispatching terrorists on five continents.”
“This same Iran vows to annihilate Israel,” he said. “If it develops nuclear weapons, it would have the means to achieve that goal. We must not let that happen.”