Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett stressed on the weekend that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s upcoming speech to Congress is essential, despite the potential rift in relations between Israel and the United States.
Speaking to CNN, Bennett explained that the speech is important in order to stop a bad agreement between Western powers and Iran. He added that Israel cannot stand by in the face of an existential threat such as the Iranian nuclear program.
“We’re in the money time. On March 24 the deadline for these negotiations ends,” he said, explaining that Netanyahu’s speech to Congress will lay out Israel’s case “at the very last moment”.
“The current deal that’s being discussed is a very bad deal,” continued Bennett. “Essentially it allows Iran to retain the machine that produces nuclear weapons and it only presses the pause button” meaning that, in a few years, Iran can produce nuclear weapons easily.
“We’re fighting for our very survival and we have to make our best case to the American people.”
Iran, said Bennett, “is using delay and deceit tactics” and the world “must take away their whole machine” which will enable them to produce nuclear weapons.
“The West, who was sure they were doing the right thing in order to appease Nazi Germany, they sold Czechoslovakia. Israel will not be the next Czechoslovakia,” stressed Bennett.
“America is our best and biggest friend – nothing will change that – but we have to make our case to the free world to stop this imminent threat,” he added.
Netanyahu’s speech to Congress has become a point of contention not only between Israel and the United States, but also between Democrats and Republicans.
The invitation to Netanyahu was extended by House of Representatives Speaker, Republican John Boehner. Obama's allies fear the trip could be used by Israel and by Republicans, who control Congress and issued the invitation, to undercut ongoing nuclear talks with Iran.
Boehner defended the action, saying Congress has every right, as a separate branch of government, to operate without the administration's input.
The White House has made clear that neither President Barack Obama nor Secretary of State John Kerry would meet Netanyahu while he is in Washington, explaining that American policy is not to meet foreign leaders on dates that are close to national elections in their countries.
Meanwhile, some Democrats have been considering not attending the speech, though House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said last week that there will be no “organized” boycott of Netanyahu’s speech among Democrats. She suggested, however, some lawmakers might “just be too busy” to attend.
Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with Democrats, said in a speech Monday at the Brookings Institution he would not attend the Netanyahu event and “may watch it on TV”, thus becoming the first senator to publicly declare he would not attend.
He was followed by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, who also said he would not attend the speech and accused Republican leaders in the House of Representatives of "unilaterally" arranging and politicizing Netanyahu's planned address.