Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu told the largest pro-Israel U.S. lobbying group Monday that any suggestion of a break with President Barack Obama and the United States was not his intention and isn’t true.
“America and Israel are more than friends. We’re like a family. We’re practically mishpacha,” Netanyahu said, using the Hebrew word for family. “Disagreements in the family are always uncomfortable. But we must always remember that we are family.”
On Tuesday, Netanyahu is set to give what may be the most controversial speech ever delivered by a foreign leader in front of Congress, attacking U.S.-led negotiations with Iran over curbing its nuclear weapons program. He’s expected to go nearly point-for-point through his sense of international negotiators’ offer to Tehran, urging Congress to resist the concessions he claims Obama will be foolishly making.
Obama, irked that the invitation was made by congressional leaders without consulting the White House, has refused to meet with him on this trip. Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry made plans to be out of town. Kerry’s trip was to Geneva, where he spent Monday morning defending Israel in front of the United Nations Human Rights Council, and the afternoon meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Zarif.
The 16,000-person crowd at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee greeted Netanyahu with rousing enthusiasm, and he whipped them up more.
“Wow,” he said, before launching into a campaign rally-style start of the speech, calling out supporters from California, Florida, New York, Colorado, even Montana.
Netanyahu left the substance of his planned attack on the Iran talks to his speech in front of Congress scheduled for Tuesday morning, but on Monday he focused instead on trying to explain himself.
“Reports of the demise of Israeli-U.S. relations are not only premature,” Netanyahu said. “They’re just wrong.”
Netanyahu began laying out the argument against trusting Iran, projecting an image on screens around the room of attacks that could be traced back to the Iranian regime, calling these the “tentacles of terror.” There is no making a deal with a regime like this one, he said.
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