Bibi speaks out
PM: I Must Address Congress for Israel's Survival

Netanyahu explains why he won't back down on Congress speech, noting 'profound disagreement with US administration on Iran deal.'

Ari Yashar,

Binyamin Netanyahu
Binyamin Netanyahu
Gili Yaari/Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu issued a statement on Tuesday, noting that despite the controversy surrounding his speech before the US Congress next month two weeks before elections, he does not intend to back down from accepting the invitation.

Netanyahu began by sending "condolences to (US) President (Barack) Obama, the American people and the family of Kayla Mueller. We stand with you." The comment refers to a US captive of Islamic State (ISIS) who was killed in a coalition airstrike.

Turning to the speech, and relations between Israel and the US that have been in great tension over recent months, he continued "Israel’s survival is not a partisan issue, not in Israel nor in the United States. This doesn’t mean that from time to time Israeli governments have not had serious disagreements with American administrations over the best way to achieve the security of Israel."

"Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, declared Israel’s independence in the face of strong opposition from US Secretary of State George Marshall," reminded Netanyahu, and indeed the US did not provide any military aid in either of Israel's first two wars of survival.

Moving through history, he added "Prime Minister (Levy) Eshkol’s decisions at the start of the Six Day War, Prime Minister (Menachem) Begin’s decision regarding the nuclear reactor in Iraq, and Prime Minister (Ariel) Sharon’s decisions to press ahead with Operation Defensive Shield; these were all strongly opposed at the time by American administrations."

After noting the disagreements on Israel's security have occurred irrespective of whether Israel's prime minister was from the left or right, or whether the US president was a Republican or Democrat, he remarked "none of these disagreements led to a rupture in the relationship between Israel and the United States."

Turning to the crux of his planned speech, Netanyahu commented "in fact, over time, our relationship grew stronger. But we do have today a profound disagreement with the United States administration and the rest of the P5+1 over the offer that has been made to Iran. This offer would enable Iran to threaten Israel's survival."

"This is a regime, Iran, that is openly committed to Israel’s destruction. It would be able, under this deal, to break out to a nuclear weapon in a short time, and within a few years, to have the industrial capability to produce many nuclear bombs for the goal of our destruction," he warned.

"This is not a personal disagreement between President Obama and me," pointed out Netanyahu. "I deeply appreciate all that he has done for Israel in many fields.  Equally, I know that the President appreciates my responsibility, my foremost responsibility, to protect and defend the security of Israel."

Explaining his reason for following through on the speech despite the sour reception from the White House, Netanyahu stated "I am going to the United States not because I seek a confrontation with the President, but because I must fulfill my obligation to speak up on a matter that affects the very survival of my country."

"I intend to speak about this issue before the March 24th deadline and I intend to speak in the US Congress because Congress might have an important role on a nuclear deal with Iran," he reasoned.

Reports have revealed that despite White House claims of having not been informed of the speech and its ensuing criticism of Netanyahu, the White House in fact was informed before Netanyahu accepted the invitation.