Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has played down any personal dispute with US President Barack Obama, but said he has a “moral obligation” to warn against a nuclear deal with Iran.
Speaking Monday at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington, Netanyahu stressed that his upcoming congressional address was not “intended to show any disrespect to President Obama or to the esteemed office that he holds.”
The Israeli premier, at the invitation of US House Speaker John Boehner (R- Ohio), is scheduled to address a joint session of Congress on Tuesday. He is expected to use the podium to warn about the “threat” of an emerging nuclear accord with Iran.
The White House has denounced the speech as a “breach of protocol.”
Netanyahu told the Israeli lobby group that his planned speech was not intended to inject Israel into the American partisan debate. “The last thing that I would want is for Israel to become a partisan issue, and I regret that some people have perceived my visit here this week as doing that.”
The prime minister said Israel would not stand idly by while Iran speeds ahead with its enrichment activates.
Netanyahu further emphasized that he would use his “voice” as the prime minister of Israel to speak about a country that is “threatening to destroy Israel” and is developing “the capacity to make nuclear weapons.”
Dismissing criticism of his decision to address the US Congress two weeks before he stands for reelection, Netanyahu said he had no choice because a deadline for a nuclear deal with Iran was approaching.
“I have a moral obligation to speak up in the face of these dangers while there is still time to avert them,” he said.
Tensions have escalated between the United States and Israel over Netanyahu’s congressional address, which has been arranged without consultation with the White House.
President Obama, his secretary of state, John Kerry, and Vice President Joe Biden have boycotted the AIPAC conference.
The White House has said Obama will not meet with Netanyahu while the prime minister is visiting Washington.
Iran and the P5+1 countries – the US, Britain, France, China, Russia, and Germany- are making attempts to narrow their differences on the outstanding issues related to Tehran’s nuclear program ahead of a July 1 deadline.
Kerry landed in Switzerland Sunday night to hold a series of meetings, over the next three days, with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif and foreign ministers of countries involved in the nuclear talks.