Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Sunday she plans to attend the scheduled speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before a joint session of Congress, but called the Israeli leader "arrogant." Feinstein, appearing on both CBS's "Face the Nation" and CNN's "State of the Union," said she wants to know what the Jewish state plans to do about Iran should the nuclear talks fall through.
Netanyahu has been very vocal about his opposition to the negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. The United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China have been trying to work out a deal that would limit Iran's ability to become a nuclear power in exchange for the easing of international sanctions, which have devastated the country's economy.
More than two dozen members of Congress have said they have no plans to attend Netanyahu's speech. In addition to Feinstein's characterization of Netanyahu as "arrogant," she added that he doesn't speak for all Jews.
"Since he is coming, I intend to go, and will listen respectfully. I don't intend to jump up and down," said Feinstein, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
"I think that arrogance does not befit Israel. Candidly, I think Israel is a nation that needs to be protected, that needs to stand free, that hopefully can work constructively with Palestinians to have a side-by-side state, and to put an end to the bitterness that has plagued this whole area."
The invitation to Netanyahu to speak was extended by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, without consultation with the White House, a breach of protocol. Top administration officials, including President Obama, do not intend to meet with the Israeli leader while he is in Washington, ostensibly not to appear to be endorsing him for re-election.
U.S. officials fear Netanyahu is out to sabotage the Iran talks, Reuters said. In recent weeks, Washington has limited the intelligence it shares with Israel following a leak of some key elements of the talks. A framework for a deal is scheduled to be reached by month's end.
Last week, national security adviser Susan Rice said in an appearance on PBS's "Charlie Rose" the invitation was "destructive of the fabric of the relationship" and it "injected a degree of partisanship" into the countries' relationship.
Netanyahu arrives Sunday and will address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Monday before appearing before Congress Tuesday.
“My responsibility is to worry not only about the state of Israel, but also the future of the Jewish people,” Netanyahu said Saturday in a visit to the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site. “And for that reason, we are strongly opposed to the agreement being formulated between the world powers and Iran that could endanger Israel’s very existence.”
Boehner said on "Face the Nation" relations between Washington and Israel have been worsening. “The animosity between the White House and the prime minister is no secret here in this town. They’ve certainly made it worse over the last five or six weeks,” Boehner said.
“What I do wonder is why the White House is threatened because the Congress wants to support Israel and wants to hear what a trusted ally wants to say.”
Boehner indicated he shares Netanyahu's view on a possible deal with Iran.
“It just doesn’t strike me that the deal is going to be good enough,” he said. “We’re not going to resolve this issue by sticking our heads in the sand.”