Netanyahu's Congressional Speech Fires Up Debate Over Iran Threat
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Congress today, warning of Iran’s potential as a global threat if the country is allowed to continue its nuclear development program.
Lawmakers greeted Netanyahu warmly – especially Congressional Republicans, whose leaders invited him to speak – in an event that critics say was fear mongering and politicking.
In his 45 minute speech, the Israeli Prime Minister urged the U.S. to stop any potential deal-making with Iran, over concerns it could open a window for the country to develop an arsenal of atomic weapons.
“We’ll face a much more dangerous Iran…a Middle East littered with nuclear bombs….and a countdown to a potential, nuclear nightmare.”
Dozens of Democrats – including Ohio Representatives Marcy Kaptur and Marcia Fudge -- planned to skip the joint address, asserting that the Israeli Prime Minister’s initial invite was a breach of protocol since it was not vetted by the White House.
Among those in attendance and applauding the speech, was Amy Kaplan of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland. She says Netanyahu’s speech was powerful.
“And I hope the partisan divide that developed leading up to the speech will disappear, because the bipartisan support for Israel is incredibly important.”
Kaplan backs Netanyahu’s remarks, and hopes the White House takes notice.
“If the Iranians develop a nuclear bomb and have the missile capacity to deliver it well beyond our borders…it would be a catastrophe for the world," says Kaplan. "The Prime Minster was very clear about that, and the Jewish community is supportive of that, we have the same fears.”
Kaplan says like Netanyahu, she appreciates the Obama Administration’s support over other Israeli security concerns, including the Iron Dome missile defense system.
The U.S. and Iran have been in talks about limiting its nuclear capabilities, which Netanyahu said could become a “farewell to arms control.”
While local and national backers cheered Netanyahu, others are dismissing the event as a fear mongering stunt. Netanyahu faces an election back home in a couple weeks.
Jeffrey Kassouf is one of those who says this is all about saber rattling. He’s co-chair of the Middle East committee for the group, Cleveland Peace Action.
“Iran does not have the capability to create nuclear weapons, nor are they pursuing the creation of nuclear weapons," says Kassouf. "We say Netanyahu’s visit is to encourage the people who want wars, that’s the only purpose.”
Kassouf says Netanyahu is exaggerating the threat, and should focus instead on making peace with Palestine.
“We have enough problems, we don’t need to get in any deeper. We need to make peace where the opportunity exists.”
Cleveland Peace Action says Prime Minister Netanyahu has been pushing war with Iran for years, and that Congress should ignore his “electioneering ploy.”
But Ohio Senator Rob Portman says he looks forward to further developing a U.S. – Israel alliance, calling it good for both nations’ security.