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FACTDROP: Netanyahu: speech to US Congress about 'the very survival of my country'


Netanyahu: speech to US Congress about 'the very survival of my country'

 The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, speaks to his Likud party members during a campaign event near Tel Aviv on Monday. Photograph: Ariel Schalit/AP

Πηγή: The Guardian
By Dan Roberts in Washington
Feb 10 2015

The diplomatic stand-off between Binyamin Netanyahu and US Democrats worsened on Tuesday as more congressmen threatened to boycott a speech by the Israeli prime minister that he claimed was about “the very survival of my country”.

Netanyahu repeatedly defended his decision to accept an invitation from Republican leaders to address a joint session of Congress that the White House has called a partisan breach of protocol.

“I am going to the United States not because I seek a confrontation with the President, but to speak up for very survival of my country,” said the prime minister in of one several English-language tweets seemingly aimed directly at the US public.
— בנימין נתניהו (@netanyahu) February 10, 2015

I am going to the United States not because I seek a confrontation with the President, but to speak up for very survival of my country.

“I intend to speak in the US Congress because Congress might have an important role on a nuclear deal with Iran,” he added, receiving over 4,000 retweets after asking followers if they supported his “determination” to speak in Congress.

Earlier, Patrick Leahy, the longest-serving Democrat in the Senate, became the latest senior figure to say he would not be attending next month’s address which was arranged by the House speaker, John Boehner, to highlight differences between Israel and Barack Obama over negotiations with Iran to prevent it developing nuclear weapons.

“The unfortunate way that House leaders have unilaterally arranged this, and then heavily politicised it, has demolished the potential constructive value of this Joint Meeting,” said Leahy in a statement. “They have orchestrated a tawdry and high-handed stunt that has embarrassed not only Israel but the Congress itself.”

Critics claim that by accepting the invitation just two weeks before Israeli elections and without seeking approval from the White House, Netayahu is overtly polarising relations between the two countries along partisan lines.

“It has long been an unwritten rule and practice through the decades that when it comes to American foreign policy, we speak and act thoughtfully, with one voice when we can, with the national interests of the United States as our uppermost consideration, and with caution about the unintended consequences of unilateral actions like this,” added Leahy. “They have diminished that valuable precedent.”

On Monday, independent Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, who normally votes with Democrats and once worked on a kibbutz, said it was wrong for Netanyahu not to have consulted more with Obama before accepting the invitation from Boehner.

A running tally of Democrats pledging to skip the speech collated by the Hill newspaper currently stands at 14 House representatives and three senators including Sanders and Leahy.

On Monday, the Washington-based Israeli-American lobby group J-Street, which also opposes the visit, wrote to all members of Congress asking them to urge Boehner to postpone it until after Israel’s election.

“One of the chief objections to the visit – and the reason so many supporters of Israel including prominent American Jewish leaders like Abe Foxman and Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the leader of the Reform Movement, have asked the Prime Minister to postpone his appearance – is the possibility that the speech will be used to advance the Netanyahu campaign,” says its letter.

“Our Congress should not be used as a prop in another nation’s election. One of the central elements that underpins the alliance between our two nations is our common commitment to democracy and elections. That means that both nations stay out of the other’s democratic process.

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