Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) triggered controversy with a fiery floor speech in the Senate on Tuesday night, during which she declared that "we cannot let Israel determine when and where the United States goes to war."
Breitbart reports that the speech was made during a debate on a bill that would impose new sanctions on Iran if it fails to comply with the nuclear deal that was reached with it in November.
The bill includes a provision offering support to Israel in the event of an Israeli pre-emptive strike on Iran.
Feinstein chairs the Select Committee on Intelligence and is considered pro-Israel, but her remarks, which echo those of anti-Israel critics, have provoked outrage, noted Breitbart.
In her speech, Feinstein said that "a vote for this legislation will cause negotiations to collapse," arguing that the six-month deal reached in Geneva and finalized on Sunday represented "the best opportunity in more than 30 years to make a major change in Iranian behavior."
The deal provides some sanctions relief in return for suspending parts of Iran's uranium enrichment program and allowing limited international inspections.
The sanctions bill, co-sponsored by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), provides for tighter sanctions in the event that Iran fails to comply with the Geneva agreement.
The Obama administration has vowed to veto the bill regardless, believing that it sends a message of confrontation.
The legislation has been gaining momentum and currently has 59 co-sponsors in the Senate, eight shy of the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), however, has indicated he would not bring it forward at this time, saying he wanted to “wait and see how this plays out”.
Feinstein, according to Breitbart, warned in her speech that hard-liners in Iran would use the bill to "argue that the United States is not interested in nuclear diplomacy--we are interested in regime change."
Democrats who wish to support the Obama administration's line are praising Feinstein's speech, the report said, and it will likely provide political cover to those who wish to oppose the bill but wish to do so without appearing to oppose Israel.
Meanwhile, the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) has called on Feinstein to apologize for her remarks, noting that the bill includes a proviso that: "Nothing in this Act or the amendments made by this Act shall be construed as a declaration of war or an authorization of the use of force against Iran."
Adding that the Kirk-Menendez's bill's language on Israel is the same as that in another bill that Feinstein co-sponsored, RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said, "We are deeply troubled to see Senator Feinstein making such incendiary and inaccurate remarks on the Senate floor.
“We call on her to retract this reckless and false charge and apologize to her colleagues and to the millions of Americans who support a comprehensive, robust strategy to prevent the Tehran regime from obtaining a nuclear weapons capability," he added.