Netanyahu to continue vocal opposition, despite Obama gaining enough votes to secure deal

Sources close to the prime minister said he did not regret the manner in which he waged the battle against the deal, including his controversial speech to Congress in March.

September 2, 2015 21:13
4 minute read.
White House

US President Barack Obama meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, October 1, 2014. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has argued fiercely against the Iran nuclear deal, will continue to speak out strongly against it, government sources said, even though US President Barack Obama on Wednesday secured the 34th vote needed to sustain a presidential veto.

“The prime minister has a responsibility to speak out against the deal that threatens this country, the region and the world,” one government official said. “And he will continue to do so.”

Despite US Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) providing Obama with the vote necessary to prevent an override of his veto if Congress votes to turn down the deal, the official said the accord “remains a dangerous deal, and it remains important to continue to point that out.”

“Iranian leaders openly say they will continue their terrorism and aggression, and they will now – with the sanctions relief – have enhanced resources to do so, because the deal will give them billions of dollars,” the official added.

“This issue will continue to engage us all.”

Sources close to the prime minister said he did not regret the manner in which he had waged the battle against the deal, including his controversial speech to Congress in March.

Before going to Washington at the time, Netanyahu said it was his “duty” to present Israel’s concerns about the deal to the American people and their representatives.

“The American people get it,” the sources continued. “They understand the dangers to Israel.

They understand the dangers to the United States. That’s why a clear majority believe the deal should be rejected, which is also reflected in Congress, where a clear majority seems prepared to reject the deal.”

According to the sources, Netanyahu will continue to speak out because “the stronger the opposition in Congress to the deal, the stronger the message to Iran and to America’s allies in the region, and the greater the likelihood that the message will be reflected in US policy moving forward.”

Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office would not comment on the prospects of Senate legislation down the line to try and curb the deal.

Regarding the status of the US-Israel relationship following the bruising battle over the accord, the sources said that the relationship was “strong,” and that Netanyahu had “no doubt that the United States and Israel will continue to work together to address the enormous challenges confronting both of our nations.”

Former foreign minister Tzipi Livni said Wednesday that she blamed Netanyahu for not doing enough to try to change what she called a very bad deal.

She said the prime minister “needed to do some soul searching” for harming the consensus on Israel in the United States and “failing on the key issue for Israeli security.”

Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On said Netanyahu had started a fight he knew he could not win in an effort to help his Republican friends. She said the prime minister was harming Israel’s strategic relations with the US and that he should stop trying to undermine the president.

Israeli officials declined to say when Jerusalem would begin talks with the US on expected enhanced military assistance as a result of the deal. Israel has avoided publicly engaging in those types of talks until now, concerned that to do so would signal that it was waving a white flag even before the issue had fully run its course through Congress.

Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office denied reports that he was planning to attend the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America meeting in Washington in November and meet with Obama during that visit.

“Nothing has been decided yet” about whether he will even attend that conference, one official said, adding that it was not yet on the “planning schedule.”

However, Netanyahu is scheduled to go to New York for the UN General Assembly at the end of September, although no meeting with Obama has been scheduled during that trip, either. The two men last met in Washington last October after Netanyahu addressed the UN.

Iran, meanwhile, is expected to be a focus of talks that Netanyahu is scheduled to hold next week in London with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Netanyahu is scheduled to arrive in London on September 9 and to leave September 11, the day before the Labor Party announces the results of its election for a new leader. The timing of the visit means that Netanyahu is unlikely to meet the front-runner, Jeremy Corbyn – who is strongly pro-Palestinian and has been dogged by allegations of anti-Semitism – because if he were to meet one of the four Labor candidates, he would have to meet them all, something not possible given time constraints.

Netanyahu is nevertheless expected to meet a delegation of British parliamentarians from different parties.

Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.

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