President Reuven Rivlin met Wednesday morning with a delegation of Democratic US Congressmen at his Jerusalen residence. The delegation, led by House Minority Whip, Rep Steny Hoyer (D-MD), was arranged by AIPAC, and came at a time of US-Israeli tensions over the nuclear deal with Iran.
Welcoming the Congressmen, President Rivlin sought to underline the fundamental alliance between the two nations, emphasizing that the relationship could and would outlast any disagreements on policy, no matter how deep.
Rivlin began by quoting former US President John F. Kennedy: "Friendship for Israel, is not a partisan matter. It is a national commitment."
"We stand together in a partnership established on the strong foundations of common values and a shared vision, rooted in the long-standing commitment to democracy, liberal values, and human rights for each and every citizen," Rivlin added.
"These are not just slogans. The shared values of democracy and equality play a part in daily life, whether we are passing legislation, sending our children to school, or just walking down the street.
"For us in Israel, we strive each and every day, to achieve our goal of a Jewish, democratic state. Democratic and Jewish. Where the historic traditions and values of the Jewish people, and the individual rights of each and every citizen of this land, are protected and safeguarded."
Turning directly to the nuclear deal with Iran, the President noted the overwhelming opposition to it in Israel. Israel, like many other neighboring states, insists the deal amounts to appeasement of Iran, capitulating on core principles and "paving the way" for Tehran to eventually achieve nuclear weapons capability.
"Along with Israelis on all sides of the political spectrum; I am deeply concerned about the recent nuclear deal signed with Iran," he said.
"The current Iranian regime, act with a dangerous combination of aggressiveness, fundamentalism, and state sponsored terrorism – threatening even without nuclear weapons, freedom and democracy in this region and around the world. We fear that this agreement is a first step in the legitimization of Iran's policies and strategies, and only acts to further destabilize a chaotic region.
"However, this deal alone does not leave Israel defenseless. As a strong democratic country in the region, Israel can, and will do, all that is necessary to defend itself. In this crucial time, we know that Israel does not stand alone. Our allies – and specifically the US – are a strategic cornerstone for us."
That alliance, Rivlin stressed, was stronger than disagreements vis-a-vis the Iran deal.
"The US-Israel relationship has known ups and downs. We must not be alarmed by disagreements when they come up," Rivlin cautioned. "Whatever Congress decides, it will be your decision as representatives of the American people. We, as your allies and partners, must make sure that whatever the result of this vote, our strategic alliance stands, and grows even stronger."
While the Republican party holds the majority in both houses of Congress, opponents of the deal – including the Israeli government – still need to enlist the backing of Democratic Congress members to achieve the two-thirds majority vote necessary to reject the White House's deal.
However, even if such an unlikely scenario were to unfold, Obama has vowed to veto any legislation passed by Congress blocking the deal.
Meanwhile Republican legislators are frantically attempting to outmaneuver the president.
Representative Peter Roskam (R-IL) said on Monday he was confident a new Congressional resolution calling to end the Iran nuclear deal would secure the support of two-thirds of lawmakers, thus rendering Obama unable to veto it.
Earlier on Tuesday, Representative Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced legislation that would prevent the implementation of the Obama administration’s nuclearagreement with Iran.