Israel’s ambassador to the United States stressed on Sunday night that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s upcoming visit to Washington, where he will address Congress, is not meant to show disrespect towards President Barack Obama.
Netanyahu’s acceptance of an invitation from House Speaker John Boehner to address Congress weeks before the election in Israel was met with a cold response from the White House, which said it was contrary to protocol. The White House later indicated that neither Obama nor Secretary of State John Kerry would meet with Netanyahu while he is in Washington.
Speaking Sunday at an Israel Bonds dinner in Florida, the ambassador, Ron Dermer, said that the speech at Congress is meant to focus on Iran and its nuclear ambitions which are a threat to Israel.
“The Prime Minister’s visit here is not intended to show any disrespect for President Obama,” he said. “Israel deeply appreciates the strong support we have received from President Obama in many areas – the enhanced security cooperation, heightened intelligence sharing, generous military assistance and Iron Dome funding, and opposition to anti-Israel initiatives at the United Nations.”
“The Prime Minister’s visit is also not intended to wade into your political debate. Israel deeply appreciates the strong bipartisan support we enjoy in the American Congress -- where Democrats and Republicans come together to support Israel - just as Israel appreciates the wide and deep support that it enjoys among the American people,” Dermer said.
At the same time, the ambassador stressed, Netanyahu has a “sacred duty” to speak up against a bad agreement with Iran which could endanger the existence of the State of Israel.
“The Prime Minister’s visit to Washington is intended for one purpose -- and one purpose only. To speak up while there is still time to speak up. To speak up when there is still time to make a difference,” Dermer explained.
Just as it was important for Netanyahu to speak out in Paris about anti-Semitism and the threat from militant Islam, “it is even more important for him to speak out in Washington DC about the dangers of a nuclear Iran,” added the Israeli ambassador, referring to the criticism of Netanyahu after he attended a march in Paris in memory of the victims of the attacks there.
He continued, “Today, the international community stands at the precipice of forging an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program. The agreement that is being discussed today is not an agreement that would dismantle Iran’s nuclear weapons capability, but rather one that could leave Iran as a nuclear threshold state. That is an agreement that could endanger the very existence of the State of Israel.”
Iran, said Dermer, “is the world’s most dangerous regime. It has already devoured four Arab capitals – Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa in Yemen – and it is hungry for more.”
“Iran is the greatest sponsor of terrorism in the world, perpetrating or ordering attacks in 25 countries on five continents in the last four years alone.”
Iran’s terrorism, he stressed, “has all happened without Iran having a nuclear weapon. Now just imagine how much more dangerous Iran will be with nuclear weapons.”