Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Tuesday that a proposed agreement between world powers and Iran was “a bad deal” that would not stop Tehran from getting nuclear weapons — but would rather pave its way to getting lots of them and leave the Jewish State in grave peril.
In a dramatic address to the U.S. Congress at what he said was a “fateful” crossroads of history, Netanyahu openly sided with President Barack Obama’s Republican critics and sparked an immediate and furious reaction from the White House, as relations between Washington and Israel spun into their deepest chasm for many years.
“We have been told that no deal is better than a bad deal. Well this is a bad deal. It is a very bad deal. We are better off without it,” Netanyahu said, building a case that Iran was not just bent on developing nuclear weapons but was determined to “gobble” up defenseless countries in a wider play for dominance in the Middle East.
“We are being told that the only alternative to this bad deal is war. That is just not true. The alternative to this bad deal is a much better deal,” Netanyahu said to deafening cheers in the House of Representatives chamber, while issuing a firm warning that Israel would stand alone if necessary to defend the existence of the Jewish people.
The response from the White House was swift and did not even try to disguise anger at Netanyahu, who has been locked in a public tussle with Obama for almost his entire administration and has stepped up his criticism as talks between world powers and Iran on a deal reach a crucial final stage.
Speaking to reporters shortly after Netanyahu finished his remarks, Obama said there was “nothing new” in Netanyahu’s address.
“But on the core issue, which is how do we prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, which would make it far more dangerous and would give it scope for even greater action in the region, the prime minister didn’t offer any viable alternatives,” Obama told reporters before meeting with Defense Secretary Ash Carter.
A senior administration official said in language, extraordinarily strong considering the long alliance between the U.S. and Israel, that the speech contained “literally not one new idea; not one single concrete alternative; all rhetoric, no action.”
….The speech, which was organized by House Republican Speaker John Boehner without the White House’s prior knowledge, has already fueled a bitter domestic political row, as talks between Iran and world powers approach an end of March deadline for a framework agreement.
….Obama bluntly said Monday that Netanyahu had been proven wrong about his diplomatic initiative before, telling Reuters that Netanyahu has in the past made “all sorts of claims” about the deal and that “none of that has come true.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told CNN Tuesday that Netanyahu was trying to disrupt talks which he is currently having with Secretary of State John Kerry in Switzerland. “I don’t think trying to create tension and conflict helps anybody,” Zarif said….
By Stephen Collinson – CNN –