JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, fending off criticism at home and abroad, said on Tuesday he remained determined to speak before the U.S. Congress next month on Iran’s nuclear program.
“I am going to the United States not because I seek a confrontation with the President, but because I must fulfill my obligation to speak up on a matter that affects the very survival of my country,” Netanyahu said in a statement.
“I intend to speak about this issue before the March 24th deadline and I intend to speak in the U.S. Congress because Congress might have an important role on a nuclear deal with Iran,” he said.
He said Israel had a profound disagreement with the world powers negotiating with Iran because their offer “would enable Iran to threaten Israel’s survival”.
Tehran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
Netanyahu is due to address a joint session of Congress about Iran’s nuclear program on March 3, just two weeks before Israeli elections, following an invitation from John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the house.
Boehner’s invitation has caused consternation in both Israel and the United States, with detractors saying Netanyahu, a hawk on Iran, is working with the Republicans to thumb their noses at President Barack Obama’s policy on Iran.
It is also seen as putting Netanyahu’s political links to the Republicans ahead of Israel’s nation-to-nation ties with the United States, its strongest and most important ally, while serving as a pre-election campaign booster.
Obama on Monday defended his decision not to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his upcoming Washington visit as following basic protocol of not meeting with world leaders just weeks before an election.
Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Dominic Evans and Ralph Boulton