Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been invited to address a joint meeting of the US Congress next month to discuss security issues including violent extremism, House Speaker John Boehner announced Wednesday.
"In this time of challenge, I am asking the prime minister to address Congress on the grave threats radical Islam and Iran pose to our security and way of life," Boehner said in a statement.
Netanyahu "is a great friend of our country, and this invitation carries with it our unwavering commitment to the security and well-being of his
people." he added.
The invitation for the Israeli leader to speak on February 11 comes as Washington and other global powers negotiate a complex deal with Iran to rein in its nuclear program, which the West believes is aimed at developing a bomb but which Tehran insists is for purely civilian use.
The talks resumed last weekend in Geneva, with a new deadline looming at the end of June, although negotiators have said they would like to see a framework deal in place by March.
American lawmakers have proposed legislation that would gradually impose sanctions against Iran if, by July 1, no final deal is reached in the talks underway between Tehran and the so-called P5+1 group — the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.
US President Barack Obama has threatened to veto legislation that would slap sanctions on the Islamic republican in the midst of the high-level negotiations, and again warned lawmakers during his State of the Union address Tuesday against taking such action.
"New sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails ," Obama said.
Netanyahu has called Iran's nuclear push the most "vital national security challenge we face," and in December he asserted that Israel played a critical role in stopping a deal with Iran that would have left that country as a "threshold nuclear power."
That deal fell apart last November, and the negotiations were extended until mid-2015.
The Prime Minister has addressed the US Congress twice before, in 1996 and 2011.
During the most recent address, he reiterated Israel's stance on peace talks, emphasizing that it would not give ground unless and until Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas accepted Israel as a Jewish state – a condition which Abbas has still not accepted some 3.5 years later. He also maintained that Israel would not divide Jerusalem.
The speech, regardless of content, could benefit the prime minister's approval rating; in 2011, Netanyahu's approval rating soared by 13% after his address.
AFP contributed to this report.