Netanyahu Begins 'Crucial,' 'Historic' Trip to Washington

Says controversial speech is motivated by security concerns
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 1, 2015 6:00 AM CST
Netanyahu Begins 'Crucial,' 'Historic' Trip to Washington
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prays at the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, in Jerusalem's Old City, Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015.   (Marc Sellem)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu headed to Washington today to press his case against an emerging deal on Iran's nuclear program in a contentious address to Congress, which he said he is delivering out of concern for Israel's security. In accepting a Republican invitation to address Congress, Netanyahu angered the White House, as well as Democrats who were forced to choose between showing support for Israel and backing their president. Netanyahu plans to express his disapproval over a potential deal between Iran and world powers that he says falls short of preventing Tehran from having the ability to make an atomic bomb. A preliminary deadline is late this month. "I feel deep and genuine concern for the security of all the people of Israel," Netanyahu told reporters on the tarmac, his wife by his side, before boarding his flight. "I will do everything in my ability to secure our future."

He called the trip a "crucial and even historic mission" and said he feels like "an emissary" of all citizens of Israel and the Jewish people. Tuesday's speech to Congress has touched off a wave of criticism in Israel, where Netanyahu is seeking re-election on March 17. His main challenger, Isaac Herzog, had demanded he cancel the speech. The former head of Israel's Mossad spy agency has called the address pointless and counterproductive. Netanyahu has long been a vocal critic of Iran, and his position is already well-known. Netanyahu considers unacceptable any deal that doesn't end Iran's nuclear program entirely. (One politician, meanwhile, is hawking pro-"Bibi" T-shirts.)

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