WASHINGTON, Mar 4 – Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced President Barack Obama’s drive for a nuclear accord with Iran, warning Washington is paving Tehran’s path to a bomb.
After Netanyahu delivered an impassioned address to the US Congress, an exasperated Obama retorted that the Israeli leader had no plan of his own to contain the Iranian threat.
And, with US Secretary of State John Kerry in talks with his Iranian counterpart in Switzerland, the “P5+1” world powers pressed on for an accord that would limit Iran’s nuclear options while loosening economic sanctions.
Netanyahu’s party faces a close-fought Israeli parliamentary election in two weeks’ time and he has been accused of imperilling Israel’s close ties with Washington for his own political gain.
But, in a barnstorming speech to a packed joint session of Congress, he pulled no punches in his denunciation of the accord that he expects Tehran to be offered before the month is out.
“That deal will not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons,” he declared. “It would all but guarantee that Iran gets those weapons, lots of them.”
Obama did not watch the speech, having arranged a video conference with European leaders on the crisis in Ukraine, but afterwards he gave the Israeli leader’s argument short shrift.
“I am not focused in the politics of this. I am not focused on the theater,” Obama said. “As far as I can tell, there was nothing new.
“On the core issue, which is how to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon which would make it far more dangerous, the prime minister did not offer any viable alternatives.”
“We don’t yet have a deal (with Iran),” Obama added. “But if we are successful then, in fact, this will be the best deal possible to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.”
– ‘Spark nuclear arms race’ –
While dozens of Obama’s Democrats stayed away from the Congress address, many more lawmakers from both sides of the aisle attended and gave Netanyahu several warm standing ovations.
“I deeply regret that some perceive my being here as political. That was never my intention,” he insisted.
“We appreciate all that President Obama has done for Israel.”