Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu hinted Friday during a visit to IDF soldiers at Rambam Hospital in Haifa that he is thinking about changing the date of his address to the Congress — sort of. A sardonic remark during the news briefing makes it clear the idea is being reviewed in the prime minister’s mind.
Currently set for the week of the AIPAC convention and two weeks prior to Israel’s national elections, the date was arranged directly with Congressional leaders without first informing the White House staff. Seen as a diplomatic faux pas and a way to sabotage the success of talks between world leaders and Iran the move infuriated President Barack Obama and senior staff. Negotiators are hoping to reach an agreement with Tehran by March 31.
The issue has become a festering sore point between Israeli government officials and the Obama administration, which has since ratcheted up its public sniping at Netanyahu at every opportunity possible. Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives have suggested that Israel’s prime minister postpone his speech, which he has already done once.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) spoke with Netanyahu by phone on Wednesday to discuss the matter, saying “Such a presentation could send the wrong message in terms of giving diplomacy a chance.” Netanyahu, who was invited by Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to present his views to Congressional lawmakers, has said he will go “anywhere, at any time,” to explain why a nuclear-armed Iran is a threat.
The prime minister told media in Rambam Hospital’s conference room that fixing a procedural problem would be much easier to deal with that the issue that prompted American lawmakers to invite him to speak in the first place: the growing danger facing Israel and the United States.
The current negotiations supported by Obama, said Netanyahu, will result in an agreement “that will leave [Iran] with the ability to develop nuclear bombs. This is an agreement that we oppose and this is the main issue.
“It is possible to resolve procedural problems regarding my appearance in the U.S., but if Iran arms itself with nuclear weapons, this will be much more difficult to resolve – and this is what we oppose and what we are focusing on,” he warned.