House Speaker John Boehner and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday hailed the “strong” ties between Israel and the US, despite heightened tensions between the prime minister and the White House in recent months.
In their public remarks, neither politician directly addressed ongoing negotiations between world powers and Iran over Tehran’s contested nuclear program.
Arriving in Jerusalem as head of a delegation of lawmakers visiting US allies in the Middle East, Boehner said that wherever they’ve gone, the “message is the same — you can’t continue to turn your eye away from the threats that face all of us.”
Boehner hailed ties between Washington and Jerusalem, saying bilateral relations between the two states were “as strong as ever.”
Earlier this year Boehner touched off a firestorm by inviting Netanyahu to speak before Congress about Iran without notifying the White House, straining ties between Netanyahu and the Obama administration.
Netanyahu gave that address on March 3, two weeks before Israel’s elections. Boehner Wednesday congratulated Netanyahu on winning the March 17 vote, in which the Likud garnered 30 seats, and joked “The hard part begins now.” Netanyahu, who fought a bruising campaign, nonetheless agreed with a laugh that winning reelection was “the easy part.”
“Our two countries cooperate on many different levels. While we may have political disagreements from time to time, the bonds between our two nations are strong, and they’re going to continue to be strong,” Boehner said.
Netanyahu, who urged world powers earlier Wednesday to toughen their positions in the nuclear talks, focused solely on the ties with Washington, which is leading world powers in the Iran talks.
“In this violent and unstable region, where states are imploding and fanaticism is exploding, one thing remains rock solid – our friendship, our alliance, our partnership,” he said.
“It makes both our countries stronger; it makes both our countries safer,” Netanyahu said. “And it’s the anchor for our shared hopes for peace and stability in this region.”
The people of Israel know they have “no better friend in the world than the United States of America,” Netanyahu said, “and the American people should know that they have no better friend in the world than the State of Israel.”
Ahead of his meeting with Boehner on Wednesday afternoon, Netanyahu protested that the talks were continuing in Lausanne even as Iran reiterated its insistent goal of destroying the Jewish state.
Netanyahu’s comments came as diplomats from Iran and a group of six world powers, led by the United States, resumed negotiations over the terms of a nuclear deal, hours after a deadline for such a deal elapsed.
“Yesterday an Iranian general brazenly declared, and I quote, ‘Israel’s destruction is nonnegotiable,’” Netanyahu began, referring to a statement by Mohammad Reza Naqd, the commander of the Basij militia of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.
“But evidently, giving Iran’s murderous regime a clear path to the bomb is negotiable,” he said. “This is unconscionable.”
He called on world powers to ensure that Iran “stop its aggression in the region, stop its terrorism throughout the world, and stop its threats to annihilate Israel.”
“That should be nonnegotiable. And that’s the deal that the world powers must insist upon,” he concluded.
AP contributed to this report.