Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) accused members of Congress who won’t be attending Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech next month of undermining that nation’s long term security and emboldening terrorism.
During a speech on the floor of the Senate Thursday afternoon, Rubio speculated that failure of members to listen to Netanyahu’s address urging the United States against agreeing to a negotiated settlement over Iran’s disputed nuclear program would embolden Israel’s enemies: Hamas, Iran, and Hezbollah.
“One of our strongest ally’s Prime Minister wants to speak before the Congress and they won’t even attend the speech? What do you think the headlines will be read as in Iran, by the terrorists in Gaza, by the terrorists in Judea and Samaria, by the terrorists in all parts of the world, such as in Lebanon, who want to destroy Israel? What do you think they are going to read into it?” Rubio asked.
Members of Congress and the White House have raised concerns about Netanyahu’s decision to address a joint session of Congress at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), arguing that the event undermines the American-Israeli relationship by eschewing diplomatic protocol and provides the prime minister with an international platform just two weeks before he stands for election. As a result, a growing number of Democrats have said they would not attend the address and the White House announced that President Barack Obama will not be meeting with Netanyahu.
“We have a practice of not meeting with leaders right before their elections, two weeks before their elections,” Obama said during a press conference on Monday. “I think it’s important for us to maintain these protocols — because the U.S.-Israeli relationship is not about a particular party.”
During the same event, Obama expressed quite optimism that the ongoing negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 nations — Russia, China, United Kingdom, and France, plus Germany — have clarified issues and narrowed the gap of disagreement over Iran’s nuclear capabilities. However, he stressed that the United States will not be extending the deadline for negotiations past March 24nd, the last possible date for a framework agreement on broad principles and June 30th, the deadline for technical negotiations.
“[I]f, in fact, what [Iran] claim[s] is true — which is they have no aspiration to get a nuclear weapon, that, in fact, according to their Supreme Leader, it would be contrary to their faith to obtain a nuclear weapon — if that is true, there should be the possibility of getting a deal. They should be able to get to yes,” Obama said.
Media reports reveal that under terms supported by the United States and its allies, Iran would be permitted to retain a significant nuclear infrastructure but would not be blocked from achieving a nuclear weapon. The world powers are also pushing for a rigorous inspection regime to ensure Iran is not developing covert nuclear facilities and would in turn provide Iran with sanction relief and greater integration into the world community.
Netanyahu, meanwhile, sees Iran as a terrorist state no different from ISIS and claims that a negotiated agreement would still threaten Israel. “[Iran] would be able, under this deal, to break out to a nuclear weapon in a short time, and within a few years, to have the industrial capability to produce many nuclear bombs for the goal of our destruction,” Netanyahu told reporters on Tuesday.
Many in Congress, including Rubio, agree, and equate the protest of Netanyahu to tacit support for the Iranian regime.
“I want you to think about the message this sends to Israel’s enemies because what we have seen decade after decade is that anytime Israel’s enemies get the perception that somehow America is no longer as committed to Israel’s security as it once was, it emboldens them to attack Israel, and Israel has no shortage of enemies that want to not just attack them but destroy them,” he explained.