President Barack Obama said Tuesday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered “nothing new” in his much-anticipated speech to Congress, suggesting that the Israeli leader failed to articulate an alternative strategy to halt Iran’s attempts to make a nuclear bomb.
“On the core issue, which is how do we prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon which would make it far more dangerous ... the prime minister didn’t offer any viable alternatives,” he told reporters during an appearance with new Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.
“We don’t yet have a deal,” Obama noted of the ongoing negotiations with Iran, which Netanyahu vehemently opposes. “It may be that Iran cannot say yes to a good deal. I have repeatedly said that I would rather have no deal than a bad deal. But if we are successful negotiating, then in fact this will be the best deal possible to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Nothing else comes close.”
The president added that Netanyahu gave “almost the exact same speech” in 2013, when he warned about an interim nuclear deal struck between major powers, including the United States, and Iran.
Obama said that he was not able to watch Netanyahu’s address but that he read a transcript. He did not attend the speech, citing a White House precedent of avoiding the appearance of U.S. meddling in foreign elections; Netanyahu faces an election in just over two weeks.
Asked about House Speaker John Boehner's decision to extend the invitation to Netanyahu without the approval of the president, Obama said that the question "should be directed to Mr. Boehner."
"It is very important for all of us Americans to realize that we have a system of government in which foreign policy runs through the executive branch and the president, not through other channels," he added.