The Obama administration and Benjamin Netanyahu continued to trade jabs over nuclear talks with Iran on the eve of the Israeli prime minister’s controversial address to Congress.
Last night National Security Advisor Susan Rice defended the talks as the only viable option for protecting Israel’s security.
“We are keeping all options on the table to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon,” Rice said yesterday at a policy conference of pro-Israel lobby group, the American Israel Public Affairs. “President Obama said it, he meant it, and those are his orders to us all.”
Rice did not mention today’s Netanyahu address, which was planned by House Speaker John Boehner without consultation or support of the White House. In a television interview last week, Rice sharply criticized Netanyahu, saying his decision to give an address on Iran’s nuclear program before U.S. lawmakers ahead of the March 17 Israeli elections “injected a degree of partisanship, which is not only unfortunate, I think it’s destructive of the fabric of the relationship” between the U.S. and Israel.
Rice took a different approach last night, calling the American-Israeli alliance an “unbreakable friendship between our two peoples” that is “not negotiable and it never will be.”
Earlier yesterday at the AIPAC conference, Netanyahu said he regretted that his appearance before Congress had become politicized.
“My speech was not intended to show any disrespect to President Obama or the esteemed office that he holds,” Netanyahu said.
U.S. Rep. James McGovern (D-Worcester), one of several Democratic lawmakers who will skip today’s speech, said Netanyahu has done just that. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren also said last night she won’t attend.
“I think it’s disrespectful to our president, I think it’s disrespectful to our foreign policy leaders who are trying … to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon,” McGovern said in an interview on Boston Herald Radio’s “Morning Meeting” yesterday. “I don’t feel like I want to be a prop in a campaign ad for Prime Minister Netanyahu.”
Mort Klein, president of the pro-Israel advocacy group Zionist Organization of America, spent yesterday meeting with lawmakers and urging them not only to attend Netanyahu’s address, but also to oppose any nuclear deal that stops short of eliminating Iran’s nuclear capabilities altogether.
He said: “Iran getting a nuclear weapon is like Hitler getting a nuclear weapon.”
This article was originally published by Boston Herald and may be found here.