US pro-Israel lobby attendees surprised by number of Jewish protesters, who say Israeli PM “does not represent Judaism”.
The Israeli prime minister has delivered a speech before America’s largest pro-Israel lobby, to make a case against a nuclear deal the US administration is negotiating with Iran.
Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington DC on Monday, telling attendees that the deal is a threat to Israel’s security.
“Iran is the foremost state sponsor of terrorism in the world,” he said, as he warned against Iran “developing” a nuclear weapon.
“As prime minister, I have a moral obligation to speak up in the face of these dangers while there is still time to avert them.”
Israel fears that US President Barack Obama’s Iran diplomacy, with an end-of-March deadline for a framework accord, will allow Iran to develop atomic weapons, something the country denies seeking.
RELATED: What Netanyahu doesn’t talk about when he talks about Iran
Netanyahu made the speech a day before he is to deliver a similar address before the Republican-controlled US Congress.
By accepting an invitation from the Republican Party to come to the US and address the opposition-controlled Congress on Tuesday, Netanyahu angered the Obama administration.
|Notes from Al Jazeera’s Tom Ackerman|
Netanyahu got the usual warm welcome from the 16,000 citizen-lobbyists who will descend on the US Capitol Tuesday, shortly after the PM delivers his third and most contentious speech ever to Congress.
They’ll be telling their legislators to defy Obama and move forward with another round of sanctions against Iran if the current negotiations collapse by the March 24 deadline.
Obama has already warned that he would veto those sanctions because they would only drive Iran to abandon the talks and risk accelerating its nuclear programme.
Netanyahu made no mention of the sanctions in his Monday remarks to AIPAC, one of Washington’s most powerful pressure groups.
Instead he sought to shore up the rift his Capitol speech has driven with the White House.
Republicans invited Netanyahu to speak without consulting Obama, who will not meet Netanyahu while about 30 Democratic congressmen, six of them Jewish, plan to stay away from the Capitol speech in loyalty to the president.
Before Netanyahu spoke to AIPAC, US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power assured the crowd that under no circumstances would Iran be allowed to build a nuclear weapon.
But Netanyahu wants assurances that Iran’s very capacity to develop a nuclear bomb will be prevented.
He has described his trip to the US as a “historic mission”.
Also addressing the 16,000 AIPAC delegates were Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, and Susan Rice, national security adviser, who last week criticised Netanyahu’s upcoming speech as “destructive” to the US-Israeli relations.
“Given their support for terrorism, the risk for a nuclear arms race in the region and the danger to the entire global nonproliferation regime, an Iran with a nuclear weapon would not just be a threat to Israel, it is also an unacceptable threat to the United States of America,” Rice told AIPAC.
‘No offence intended’
In his speech, Netanyahu said that he has no intention to disrespect Obama or the US presidency.
Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, Marwan Bishara, however, said “that’s what exactly what he has done”.
On Sunday, a member of Netanyahu’s entourage told journalists that the Israeli government knows “a great deal about the emerging agreement… In our view, it is a bad agreement”.
The official would not indicate the source of the “excellent information” Israelis have about the deal between Iran and the Western powers that would prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.
In Geneva, John Kerry, US secretary of state, cautioned Israel not to undercut Iran nuclear negotiations that resumed in the Swiss city.
Speaking before a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif, Kerry struck a balance between defending Israel before the UN Human Rights Council, which Washington has long accused of anti-Israel bias, and also suggesting the Israelis not undermine the talks.
“We are concerned by reports that suggest selective details of the ongoing negotiations will be discussed publicly in the coming days,” he said, apparently alluding to Netanyahu’s planned Tuesday speech to US lawmakers.
“Doing so would make it more difficult to reach the goal that Israel and others say they share in order to get to a good deal,” Kerry said. “Israel’s security is absolutely at the forefront of all of our minds, but frankly so is the security of all of the other countries in the region. So is our security.”