WASHINGTON – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may not have revealed details of talks with Iran, as the White House feared, but he stressed that the deal as it stands does not go far enough to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.
“Virtually all the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program will automatically expire within a decade,” Netanyahu said.
His speech Tuesday to a joint session of Congress was met with enthusiasm and applause by the largely Republican audience and was often interrupted by standing ovations.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who was in the audience, was distressed by the speech. She said in a statement released shortly after the speech that the speech was an insult to the U.S.
“That is why, as one who values the U.S.-Israel relationship, and loves Israel, I was near tears throughout the Prime Minister’s speech,” Pelosi said, “saddened by the insult to the intelligence of the United States as part of the P5 +1 nations, and saddened by the condescension toward our knowledge of the threat posed by Iran and our broader commitment to preventing nuclear proliferation.”
Netanyahu urged Members of Congress to demand a policy that would maintain strict sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program, arguing that Iran should not be allowed a program until it is a more peaceful country.
“If Iran wants to be treated like a normal country, let it act like a normal country,” Netanyahu said.
He argued that Iran’s stance against the Islamic State group does not make the country an ally for the U.S. and Israel. While Iran has been part of the fight against ISIS, Netanyahu said this doesn’t excuse Iranian threats against Israel and terrorist acts toward other nations.
“When it comes to Iran and ISIS, the enemy of your enemy is your enemy,” Netanyahu said.
The speech has been widely regarded as controversial after Speaker of the House John Boehner went over President Barack Obama’s head to arrange the trip. Netanyahu thanked the administration and Congress for past support of Israel in 2010, 2011 and summer 2014, when tensions between Israel and Palestine flared.
“I know, no matter on which side of the aisle you sit, you stand with Israel,” he said.
Many congressional Democrats skipped the speech, some waiting until the last minute to reveal their plans. According to The Hill newspaper, 56 Democrats planned to skip the speech. It comes two weeks before Netanyahu faces re-election in Israel, and less than a month before talks with Iran are scheduled to conclude.
Reach reporter Allison Kite at [email protected] or 202-408-1491. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.