Netanyahu 'Must Fulfill Obligation to Speak Up on Matter That Affects Very Survival of My Country'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed in a statement Tuesday that despite controversy over his impending address to a joint session of Congress, he needs to address lawmakers "because Congress might have an important role on a nuclear deal with Iran."

Netanyahu stressed that Israel’s survival "is not a partisan issue, not in Israel nor in the United States":

This doesn’t mean that from time to time Israeli governments have not had serious disagreements with American administrations over the best way to achieve the security of Israel.

Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, declared Israel’s independence in the face of strong opposition from US Secretary of State George Marshall. Likewise, Prime Minister Eshkol’s decisions at the start of the Six Day War, Prime Minister Begin’s decision regarding the nuclear reactor in Iraq, and Prime Minister Sharon’s decisions to press ahead with Operation Defensive Shield; these were all strongly opposed at the time by American administrations.

Disagreements over Israel’s security have occurred between prime ministers in Israel from the left and from the right and American presidents from both parties.

None of these disagreements led to a rupture in the relationship between Israel and the United States.

In fact, over time, our relationship grew stronger.

But we do have today a profound disagreement with the United States administration and the rest of the P5+1 over the offer that has been made to Iran.

This offer would enable Iran to threaten Israel's survival.

This is a regime, Iran, that is openly committed to Israel’s destruction. It would be able, under this deal, to break out to a nuclear weapon in a short time, and within a few years, to have the industrial capability to produce many nuclear bombs for the goal of our destruction.

This is not a personal disagreement between President Obama and me. I deeply appreciate all that he has done for Israel in many fields. Equally, I know that the President appreciates my responsibility, my foremost responsibility, to protect and defend the security of Israel.

I am going to the United States not because I seek a confrontation with the President, but because I must fulfill my obligation to speak up on a matter that affects the very survival of my country.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters yesterday that even though "it seems unseemly to have created this political issue" with House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) invitation, he won't be among Dems ditching the speech.

"Secretary Kerry said, and I agree with this, that prime minister is welcome to speak to a session of Congress... He is the leader of one of our closest allies in the world, a nation to which we have very strong, unbreakable ties," Hoyer said. "But it was unfortunate that we have not raised political questions about the politicization either of the Israeli election, or the political relationship between Republicans and Democrats on the issue of Israel."

So far The Hill has counted 14 House Democrats and three senators who plan to skip Netanyahu's speech, including Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairmen Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.).