Netanyahu casts politics aside, but condemns Iran nuclear talks

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from MSNBC,

Casting aside days of political acrimony leading up to his fourth address before Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday praised the work that President Obama has done for Israel, and declared that the relationship between Israel and the United States could never be weakened by partisanship. At the same time, Netanyahu came down hard against a nuclear deal the United States is attempting to strike with Iran, warning that such an agreement would not serve to block Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons.

“I deeply regret that some perceive my being here as political. That was never my intention,” Netanyahu said in an address before Congress. “I know that no matter on which side of the aisle you sit, you stand with Israel.”

… the timing of Tuesday’s address has raised many an eyebrow over whether Netanyahu is politicizing the Iranian nuclear talks to shore up support ahead of the Israeli election, which is taking place March 17. Citing that election, Obama refused to meet with Netanyahu this week.

“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 the critical issue of nuclear nonproliferation and the safety of our most important ally in the Middle East,” said Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, one of the Democratic lawmakers boycotting Tuesday’s speech, in a statement to The Boston Globe.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also criticized Tuesday’s speech – though directed it toward the Israeli leader, not Boehner. When asked by a reporter Tuesday if Netanyahu’s address would impact the nuclear talks, Zarif answered: “Well he’s trying to, but I don’t think trying to create tension and conflict helps anyone.”

It’s not just lawmakers who were protesting Netanyahu’s speech. Dozens of demonstrators from various antiwar groups – including Codepink, the Answer Coalition, and NK USA (Orthodox Jews Against Zionism) – gathered Tuesday morning on Capitol Hill to protest.

Speaking on msnbc’s “Morning Joe” Tuesday, the president’s senior adviser Valerie Jarrett downplayed the controversy Netanyahu’s address has created and said that the speech had turned into a “distraction.”

“I think what’s important to keep in mind is the fundamental fact that the United States is Israel’s staunchest ally,” said Jarrett. “The president is absolutely committed to the safety and security of Israel. We share a common goal of ensuring that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons. We may disagree about the tactics of how to get there, but the important thing is that that’s our goal. And so that’s where we really keep our focus.”

Jarrett went on to say that Obama’s relationship with Netanyahu, which has always been strained, would not be weakened by whatever political factor motivated the Israeli leader’s appearance before Congress. Their relationship, said Jarrett, “can’t be undermined because this isn’t about one particular leader; this is about the country and about our commitment to the country. So the president’s not going to let anything undermine his commitment. As as long as he is president of the United States, he’s going to honor that commitment and work vigilantly to ensure Israel’s safety and security.”

Jarrett added that Obama would not be watching the speech due to his schedule. “He’s action packed,” she said.

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