Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said Monday that he meant no disrespect to President Barack Obama by accepting an invitation to speak to Congress, and he insisted that U.S.-Israeli relations were “stronger than ever.”
The prime minister told AIPAC, the largest pro-Israel lobby in the United States, that he intends to speak out against a potential Western deal with Iran over its nuclear program. Iran says that its intentions are peaceful, not to build a bomb.
“As prime minister of Israel,” he said, “I have a moral obligation to speak up in the face of these dangers while there’s still time to avert them.”
Netanyahu will speak to Congress on Tuesday. He angered the White House by accepting a unilateral invitation from House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican. The administration perceived it as a breach of diplomatic protocol.
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“My speech is not intended to show any disrespect to President Obama or the esteemed office that he holds,” Netanyahu said. “I have great respect for both.”
The prime minister told a cheering audience that they were there to demonstrate that “reports of the demise of the Israel-U.S. relation is not only premature, they’re just wrong.”
“You’re here to tell the world that our alliance is stronger than ever. And because of you, and millions like you across this great country, it’s going to get even stronger in the coming years.”
Samantha Power, the American ambassador to the United Nations, said in her own speech to AIPAC on Monday that the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security “transcends politics, and it always will.”
“The United States of America will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon,” she said. “Period.”
— Erin McClam