WASHINGTON — Rep. Robert Aderholt said it was an honor to be in the Capitol to hear Israel’s prime minister speak to Congress Tuesday.
“I did not want to pass up the opportunity to hear what the leader of one of America’s strongest and most important allies had to say,” Aderholt, R-Haleyville, said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a joint session of Congress that an emerging agreement between Iran and the United States would all but guarantee that Tehran gets nuclear weapons and would be a very bad deal, drawing an extraordinarily blunt rebuttal from President Barack Obama.
In an appearance that has stirred political controversy in two countries, Netanyahu said “Iran has proven time and again that it cannot be trusted,” no matter what it says about permitting verification of the terms of any accord designed to prevent it from getting a nuclear bomb.
“The greatest danger facing our world is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons,” he said in remarks before a packed House chamber that drew loud applause from Republicans and a more restrained reaction from Democrats.
Obama saw it differently, and said so from the White House. He said that the Israeli leader offered no “viable alternatives” to the nuclear negotiations with Iran and that the prospect of an agreement had already resulted in a freeze and rolling back of Iran’s program.
Aderholt said he also wants to keep nuclear weapons out of Iran.
“Israel’s very existence is always hanging in the balance,” the congressman for DeKalb County said. “The previous leader of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, made his belief very clear that Israel, a nation of 8 million people, must be ‘wiped off the map.’
“While Ahmadinejad is no longer in power, the threat of a nuclear armed Iran to Israel and the rest of the world remains.”
Aderholt said he agrees with Netanyahu that any negotiations should be done with an aim at keeping Iran nuclear-free.
“This administration seems to be taking a naïve approach to foreign affairs,” Aderholt said. “Therefore, it does not give me much comfort that the best interests of Israel or the United States will be at the forefront of any deal.”
The White House expressed its displeasure with Netanyahu’s appearance by word and deed, dispatching Vice President Joe Biden on an overseas trip that meant he did not fill his customary seat behind the House rostrum during the speech. Nor did the Israeli leader meet at the White House with Obama on his trip to the United States.
Netanyahu sought to smooth over any political unpleasantness, thanking Obama lavishly for the help he has given Israel since he became president.
Aderholt said the U.S. should “continue to do everything possible” in an effort to ensure the future survival of Israel as a democracy.
“Anyone who treats Israel as if it is expendable must be dealt with from a standpoint that they are not acting in good faith,” he said.