PM bent on Congress speech, but ‘open’ to arguments against
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PM bent on Congress speech, but ‘open’ to arguments against

Netanyahu hosts Republican lawmakers, says emerging Iran deal ‘isn’t a partisan issue’

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) meets with US Rep. Dennis A. Ross (R-FL) at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on February 17, 2015. (photo credit: Haim Zach/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) meets with US Rep. Dennis A. Ross (R-FL) at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on February 17, 2015. (photo credit: Haim Zach/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared Tuesday that while he has every intention of going ahead with a controversial speech about Iran to the US Congress in March, he is open to hearing the reasonings of those who oppose the address.

Netanyahu made the statement as he met with Republican Congressmen Robert Pittenger (North Carolina) and Dennis A. Ross (Florida) at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.

“We have a great national interest in preventing Iran from acquiring the means to develop nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu told his guests before the meeting. “That’s why I think it’s important for me to speak before the members of Congress, all members of Congress, and explain Israel’s position.

“Now there are those who think otherwise,” the prime minister noted. “I’m open to hearing their case and I would hope that they would extend Israel, the country whose very existence is threatened by Iran, that same courtesy.”

The prime minister accepted an invitation last month from Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the speaker of the US House of Representatives, to speak to Congress, but the White House complained that Boehner had not cleared the invitation with President Barack Obama or Democrats in Congress.

A number of Jewish groups have said the visit is unwise and have called on Netanyahu and Boehner to postpone it at least until after Israel’s March 17 elections. Some Democratic lawmakers have said they will not attend the speech.

Netanyahu insisted Tuesday that the political furor over his upcoming speech should not cloud the issue of a looming nuclear deal between world powers and Iran that, in his opinion, will fail to prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons.

“We believe this isn’t a partisan issue,” he said. “It isn’t a Democratic issue; it’s not a Republican issue. It’s an Israeli issue. It’s an American issue. It’s a global issue and we believe that the current proposal before Iran, handed over by the P5+1 is very dangerous to Israel and dangerous to the region and the peace of the world.”

Netanyahu intends to argue before Congress on March 3 that the international community should increase the pressure on Iran, rather than ease sanctions against it under the terms of an emerging deal.

Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany — known as the P5+1 — have been seeking a comprehensive accord that would prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb in return for an easing of economic sanctions.

The cut-off point for the technical details of a comprehensive accord is June 30.

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