By Yoni Hersch, Shlomo Cesana and Gideon Allon
Despite the criticism he has received, U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner does not regret the decision he made to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress in early March.
In an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” on Sunday, Boehner said he notified the White House of his decision only on the morning that he extended the invitation to Netanyahu.
“There’s nobody in the world who can talk about the threat of radical terrorism, nobody can talk about the threat that the Iranians pose, not just to the Middle East and to Israel, our longest ally, but to the entire world, but Bibi Netanyahu,” Boehner said in the interview.
Boehner then criticized U.S. President Barack Obama for failing to take the threat of terrorism and the Iranian nuclear threat seriously.
“The president is trying to act like it’s not there,” he said. “But it is there. And it’s going to be a threat to our homeland if we don’t address it in a bigger way.”
Asked about passing additional sanctions on Iran to stop its nuclear program, Boehner said that he thinks “the House believes that more sanctions, if they don’t come to an agreement, are in order,” and that he disagrees with Obama, who has said that additional sanctions during negotiations would ensure the failure of diplomatic efforts.
Republican Senator John McCain on Sunday defended Boehner’s decision to invite Netanyahu to speak before Congress. McCain said that he feels the relationship between the Israeli and the U.S. governments has deteriorated, and suggested that the Iran issue has likely contributed to the worsening ties.
“I do believe that it’s important that Prime Minister Netanyahu speak to the American people,” McCain said. “We need congressional ratification of any agreement that is made [with Iran].”
Netanyahu addressed the Iran issue on Monday during a visit to Israel Aerospace Industries’ Systems, Missiles and Space Group.
“The agreement now being forged between the major powers and Iran is unacceptable to Israel,” Netanyahu said.
“This agreement is dangerous to Israel, to the region and to the world. … I, as prime minister, stand up and say this unequivocally: We will do everything in order to prevent the arming of Iran with nuclear weapons capabilities,” he added.
A senior Israel official with knowledge of the Iran negotiations said Monday, “I don’t believe that an agreement will come at any price.”
He added that a deal is unlikely to be reached before March, and that a great deal rests on “difficult decisions that Iran must make … though there has not yet been any real change among the Iranians with regard to concessions that could lead to an agreement.”
“The combination of diplomatic and economic pressures increases the chances of a good outcome from the negotiations. Putting pressure on Iran won’t guarantee a deal, but a lack of pressure will ensure that there is no deal,” the official said.
Meanwhile, Israeli Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran is expected to rule in the coming days on whether Israeli media outlets will be permitted to air Netanyahu’s address to the U.S. Congress, which will take place two weeks before the March 17 Knesset elections.
Joubran requested that Netanyahu personally respond by Feb. 1 to the left-wing Meretz party leader Zehava Gal-On’s petition that the speech before Congress not be televised on the ground that it would constitute electioneering, and he further named Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein as a respondent in the petition.