By Arun Kumar
In a defiant speech before a joint session of Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the deal the US and its allies are negotiating with Iran over its nuclear programme as “very bad”.
“This is a bad deal “a very bad deal. We’re better off without it,” he said, directly challenging President Barack Obama’s argument that a diplomatic accord would be more effective than additional sanctions or military action.
Any agreement that stops short of completely dismantling Tehran’s nuclear programme would be ineffective, Netanyahu said, drawing frequent applause from lawmakers from both chambers controlled by the Republicans.
“The alternative to this bad deal is a much better deal” not war, he said, as he ended his speech to a standing ovation with a quote from Moses: “Be strong and resolute.”
Republican speaker John Boehner invited Netanyahu to share his viewpoint with the US Congress without any reference to the White House straining ties between the two allies as also their leaders.
Obama has declined to meet the premier on this trip with the White House saying that he was doing so to not appear taking sides in the Israeli election due in two weeks.
About 50 members of Obama’s Democratic Party also skipped the speech.
Netanyahu said the current deal being discussed with Iran will “guarantee” that the Islamic republic gets nuclear weapons.
The deal will allow Iran to keep its major infrastructure “with a short breakout time for a bomb”, he said.
“That’s why this deal is so bad. … It paves Iran’s path to a bomb,” he said.
Referring to the controversy surrounding the speech, Netanyahu said that was never his intention and US-Israeli relations “must always remain above politics”.
He thanked lawmakers from both parties for their bipartisan support of Israel and said Israel appreciates what presidents from Truman to Obama have done for Israel.
Listing various things Obama has done, including provision of Interceptor missiles during Israel’s war last year with Hamas in Gaza, he said: “I will always be grateful to President Obama for that support.”
Ahead of Tuesday’s controversial speech, Obama Monday slammed Netanyahu’s approach on a nuclear deal with Iran saying the Israeli leader had been wrong about the 2013 interim deal with Iran.