Netanyahu at cabinet meeting.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
As criticism in both Israel and the US of his planned speech to Congress continues to mount, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu framed the debate over Iran in life-and-death terms on Wednesday.
“I respect the White House and the US president,” he said of the friction triggered by his decision to address Congress, “but on a matter so fateful that it could determine whether we exist or not, my obligation is do everything to prevent such a great danger to the State of Israel.”
Speaking to a Likud gathering in Ma’aleh Adumim, Netanyahu – after addressing the comptroller's report about housing
– said the biggest threat to life in Israel and to the state is an Iran armed with nuclear weapons.
“We have many reasons to worry about the agreement that is being formulated now,” he said. “The world powers committed themselves to preventing Iran from getting a nuclear bomb, but from the emerging accord it appears that they have given up on that commitment and have come to accept the idea of Iran – gradually over the years – developing the ability to make the fissile material needed for many nuclear bombs.”
While the world may have come to accept this notion, “we have not,” he said.
Netanyahu said it is his responsibility as Israel’s leader to do everything he could to warn of the dangers and to oppose the deal.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment on Wednesday on a number of issues related to the speech, including US National Security Adviser Susan Rice’s comment a day earlier that the speech was “destructive” to the Israel-US relationship, as well as Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) announcing that he will not attend the address.
The Prime Minister’s Office also did not issue a reaction to the report that Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer asked the ambassadors of Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates to attend next Tuesday’s address, and that they declined.
Regarding reports that Netanyahu’s own National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen was opposed to the speech, Cohen issued a rare statement saying, “In total contrast to what was published, I am not opposed to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s congressional speech. In my opinion, the speech is imperative at this time in order to explain why the emerging deal between Iran and the P5+1 is dangerous for Israel and the world.”
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, meanwhile, said Iran was standing behind all those who fight Israel – Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad – and “therefore the agreement emerging now is not good for us.”
On a tour of the northern border, Liberman called for the security cabinet to be convened and for Israel to make decisions regarding the agreement. He did not elaborate.
Without relating directly to Netanyahu’s address, he said Israel needs to oppose the agreement, but in a way that will not harm its relationship with Washington.