You're Up, Netanyahu
Last-minute guide to Bibi's speech to Congress
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 3, 2015 7:52 AM CST
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington, Monday, March 2, 2015.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(Newser) – Benjamin Netanyahu presents his much-debated thoughts on Iran to Congress this morning after what CBS News calls "extensive hand-wringing" and tensions between himself and the White House. Some final context:

  • President Obama's thoughts: While Bibi's appearance isn't "permanently destructive" to US-Israeli relations, "it is a distraction from what should be our focus," he told Reuters yesterday. "And our focus should be, 'How do we stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon?'"
  • What Bibi will say: A Netanyahu aide yesterday said he'll spill details on the nuclear talks. Congress members "do not necessarily know the details of the deal coming together, which we do not see as a good deal," the aide said, per Reuters.

  • What happens if he spills too much: "We've continuously provided detailed classified briefings to Israeli officials to keep them updated," a State Department spokeswoman said, per Raw Story. "Any release of any kind of information like that would, of course, betray that trust. We want to keep talking, of course, but that would be a problem."
  • The timing: Netanyahu is trying to deflect criticism that he's using this trip to drum up home support before Israeli elections March 17. "The last thing that I would want is for Israel to become a partisan issue," he told AIPAC yesterday, per Reuters. But it's a complication for Obama, who had hoped to wrap up an Iran agreement by the end of March, the New York Times notes.
  • Israel's main concern: A particular sticking point is the concept of a so-called "sunset clause," meaning that if Iran sticks to the terms of any agreement it makes for 10 to 15 years, it would be declassified as a nuclear state. The Israeli Embassy tweeted an image of a fake newspaper in the year 2025 that shows what would happen if such a clause materialized.
  • Where Iran stands: John Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif yesterday in Switzerland, and Iran was pretty clear how it feels about Obama's demand that it stop sensitive nuclear activity for 10 years, Reuters reports. "Iran will not accept excessive and illogical demands," Zarif said, per Iran's news agency. Iran will continue Swiss talks.
  • Last-minute no-show: Elizabeth Warren announced last night she wouldn't be coming. "I strongly support Israel, and I remain deeply concerned about the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon," she said, per the Boston Globe. "It's unfortunate that Speaker Boehner's actions on the eve of a national election in Israel have made Tuesday's event more political and less helpful for addressing nuclear nonproliferation."