President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday appeared to suggest he was against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s upcoming speech to Congress.
Though he did not specifically mention the speech, Rivlin, who spoke at a conference of the Institute for National Security Studies, called on the Israeli leadership to present its position on important issues to the public in Israel.
"I believe that if we find it necessary to speak on relevant international stages about the dangers and threats, it is all the more so our duty to speak directly, patiently, and in Hebrew to our citizens at home,” he said.
"We have no other voters. We have no other elections. And we have no other parliament. The citizens of our country come first. Let’s say what we have to say, at the very least, also here at home,” concluded Rivlin.
Netanyahu’s upcoming speech to a joint session of Congress has become a point of contention not only between Israel and the United States but also between left and right within Israel.
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.
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein last week torpedoed that left’s initiative and decided that Israeli media may air Netnayahu's speech, explaining the speech has “clear news value” and may be therefore broadcasted like any other news event.
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.
Rivlin’s comments came amid reports in Israeli media on Sunday that Washington was “punishing” Israel over Netanyahu’s speech and had stopped sharing information with Israeli officials regarding the nuclear talks with Iran.
Senior officials in both the State Department and White House denied the reports and made clear that conversations with Israel are ongoing.