Netanyahu: ‘Israel Has Always Been a Bipartisan Issue’

Melanie Arter | March 2, 2015 | 11:17am EST
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures while addressing the 2015 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington, Monday, March 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

( - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a speech at the AIPAC Policy Conference 2015 in Washington, D.C., said his planned speech Tuesday before Congress was “not intended to inject Israel into the American partisan debate” nor to “show any disrespect to President Obama.”

“Never has so much been written about a speech that hasn’t been given, and I’m not going to speak today about the content of that speech, but I do want to say a few words about the purpose of that speech. First let me clarify what is not the purpose of that speech,” he said.

“My speech is not intended to show any disrespect to President Obama or the esteemed office that he holds. I have great respect for both,” Netanyahu said, adding that he “deeply” appreciates all that Obama has done for Israel: security cooperation, intelligence-sharing, and support of the United Nations to name a few.

House Speaker John Boehner invited Netanyahu to speak before Congress tomorrow, an invitation that has angered Democrats, who have said they will not attend the speech.

Netanyahu said his speech was “not intended to inject Israel into the American partisan debate.” He said the reason why the U.S.-Israel alliance “has grown stronger decade after decade is that it has been championed by both parties, and so it must remain.”

“Both Democratic and Republican presidents have worked together with friends from both sides of the aisle in Congress to strengthen Israel and our alliance between our two countries, and working together, they have provided Israel with generous military assistance and missile defense spending. We’ve seen how important that is just last summer,” Netanyahu said.

“Working together has made Israel stronger. Working together has made our alliance stronger, and that’s why the last thing that anyone who cares about Israel, the last thing that I would want is for Israel to become a partisan issue,” he said.

“I regret that some people have misperceived my visit here this week as doing that. Israel has always been a bipartisan issue. Israel should always remain a bipartisan issue,” Netanyahu added.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the purpose of my address to Congress tomorrow is to speak up about a potential deal with Iran that could threaten the survival of Israel. Iran is the foremost state-sponsor of terrorism in the world,” he said.

The prime minister pointed to a map which showed Iran training, arming, and dispatching terrorists on five continents.

“Iran envelopes the entire world with its tentacles of terror. This is what Iran is doing now without nuclear weapons. Imagine what Iran would do with nuclear weapons, and this same Iran vows to annihilate Israel. If it develops nuclear weapons, it would have the means to achieve that goal. We must not let that happen,” Netanyahu said.

In a series of anti-Israel tweets in November 2014, Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for Israel to be annihilated, Slate reported on Nov. 9, 2014.

“This barbaric, wolflike & infanticidal regime of #Israel which spares no crime has no cure but to be annihilated. 7/23/14 #HandsOffAlAqsa” the tweet stated.

Netanyahu said that as prime minister of Israel, he has “a moral obligation to speak up in the face of these dangers while there’s still time to avert them.”

“For 2,000 years, my people, the Jewish people were stateless, defenseless, voiceless. We were utterly powerless against our enemies who swore to destroy us. We suffered relentless persecution and relentless attacks. We could never speak on our own behalf, and we could not defend ourselves. Well no more!” he said.

“The days when the Jewish people are passive in the face of threats to annihilate us, those days are over!” Netanyahu added.

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