Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in comments to Israel Hayom on Friday that his controversial address to the U.S. Congress on Tuesday was “well worth the cost of confrontation” with President Barack Obama. Despite the White House’s criticisms of the speech, which warned the U.S. of a “bad” nuclear deal with Iran, Netanyahu maintained the lasting effects of the address would be positive.
“A prime minister in Israel must be able to stand up even to our closest ally and tell the truth. Otherwise, history will not be kind to us,” Netanyahu said. “If Iran arms itself with a nuclear bomb, with the explicit intent of annihilating Israel, it would jeopardize our very existence. If I hadn't done what I did, in the future other could criticize us and wonder, 'Why didn't you speak up? Why didn't you issue warnings? Why didn't you act in time? I, of course, am acting in time.”
Netanyahu also challenged the idea that his speech had put a strain on ties between the two governments. "Contrary to what people may say, the relations between Israel and the U.S. are strong, and they will overcome this disagreement. If the [emerging Iran deal] is brought to Congress for approval -- and there is a real possibility that it will -- I have no doubt that my speech served to shore up support for Israel's stance,” he said.
The Israeli prime minister’s speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday had been criticized as a breach of protocol by the White House and Democratic leaders, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who later issued a statement saying that the address had been an “insult to the intelligence of the United States,” according to the BBC. Netanyahu argued during the address that ongoing negotiations between Iran and international powers about the country’s nuclear program could pave the way for an Iranian nuclear weapon.
The controversial address came less than two weeks before the upcoming nationwide election in Israel, a fact that has prompted many to suggest Netanyahu’s move was motivated more by domestic political considerations than anything else. Regardless of his motives, it does not appear that the speech has helped the leader’s Likud party gain a competitive edge ahead of the March 17 contest. A poll by the Jerusalem Post on Friday found that the Zionist Union, Likud’s main political rival, continues to hold a lead for seats in the country’s Knesset. If the election were held today, the Zionist Union would beat Likud, 24 seats to 22.