Washington (AFP) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the US Congress next week will shatter already poor relations with President Barack Obama and test the resilience of US-Israeli ties.
Since Netanyahu and Obama came to power in 2009 they have had a testy relationship, clashing over Israeli settlement building and the moribund Middle East peace process.
But on Tuesday, Netanyahu will appear in Obama’s backyard, at Republicans’ invitation, and ask Congress to oppose a policy the White House views as pivotal to US national security and to the president’s legacy.
Netanyahu’s goal is simple: try to kill a US nuclear deal with Iran, even if it destroys relations with Obama in the process.
To Netanyahu’s eyes, the deal – now in the final stages of negotiation – would give Iran’s Ayatollahs tacit permission to seek a nuclear weapon when it expires a decade or so from now.
While a nuclear-armed Iran could threaten Israel’s existence and spark proliferation across the Middle East, sabotaging the deal would offend a US president who will be an ex-president in two short years.
“I respect the White House and the US president but on a serious subject, it’s my duty to do everything for Israel’s security,” Netanyahu said before leaving for Washington.
Diplomats believe Obama could agree and implement most of the deal without Congress’s help, but lawmakers keen to show their pro-Israel credentials ahead of the 2016 US election could make life difficult. Their refusal to lift some sanctions or even introduce more could incite Iran to walk away.