Hatnua chairwoman Tzipi Livni on Tuesday blamed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for the announcement by ten Senate Democrats that they would postpone a vote on a new Iran sanctions bill until March.
Livni, who gave a speech at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, attacked Netanyahu and said that it was his decision to accept an invitation to speak before Congress that caused the senators to postpone the vote on sanctions.
“Netanyahu buried the bill to increase sanctions on Iran for a political speech,” she charged, adding that Netanyahu’s “rude political conduct against the United States – for a photo op and a so-called ‘defense speech’ on Iran – is achieving the exact opposite of encouraging further sanctions.”
"Netanyahu rebuffed our relationship with the United States at a time when we need our ally to avoid dragging the IDF to the International Criminal Court and in the struggle against Iran and militant Islamic violence. Netanyahu prevented the sanctions, hurt relations with the U.S. and harmed Israel’s security,” continued Livni.
The Likud party rejected Livni’s criticism and said that she was misleading the Israeli people.
"Instead of supporting the Prime Minister in his efforts to stop a nuclear Iran, Tzipi is engaged in personal attacks and petty politics,” the Likud said, adding, "Prime Minister Netanyahu is the only world leader openly leading the fight against a dangerous agreement with Iran.”
Furthermore, the Likud’s statement’s said, the senators’ announcement had nothing to do with Netanyahu’s speech.
“[Senator Robert] Menendez said he was considering delaying the vote after Obama’s State of the Union and before it was made public that Netanyahu is to address Congress. The fact that the decisions in the House of Representatives will be made after the Prime Minister's speech make the speech even more significant,” said the statement.
Menendez, a longtime proponent of additional sanctions against Iran, has introduced legislation that would mandate new sanctions only if a nuclear deal is not reached by March, a timetable that has already been extended past the original November deadline.
The bill co-authored by Menendez and Republican Senator Mark Kirk is a toned down version of a previous bill they authored and which had gained momentum in Congress, but Obama lobbied hard against it and threatened to veto it.
The Israeli left has more than once accused Netanyahu of damaging Israel’s relations with Washington by accepting an invitation to speak before Congress. Petitions have been filed to demand that Israeli media outlets not broadcast Netanyahu's speech live, with leftists claiming it will violate Israel’s election laws.
The left’s criticism comes despite the fact that 19 years ago, then-Prime Minister Shimon Peres visited the U.S. to meet then-President Bill Clinton – a mere month before elections.
Netanyahu made clear this week that he intends to go through with his Congress speech despite the objections of the left, accusing the joint Labor-Hatnua list, which is calling itself the “Zionist Camp”, of being “the anti-Zionist camp”.