On the eve of his departure to Washington DC to address Congress about the possible nuclear deal being brokered between the U.S. and Iran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made one last stop to East Jerusalem. Saturday evening he went to the historic Old City in the occupied territories and prayed at the Western Wall. Netanyahu told Israeli reporters there, “I respect U.S. President Barack Obama,” signaling he intends to smooth over the row with the U.S. administration and Democrats regarding his visit.
“I believe in the strength of the relationship between Israel and the US and in their strength to overcome differences of opinion, those that have been and those that will yet be,” continued Netanyahu in his final statement before his flight.
Over the past few weeks a myriad of controversies have surrounded Netanyahu’s invitation from GOP Speaker of the House John Boehner. Susan Rice called the breach in protocol and Netanyahu’s clear disagreement with the Obama administration over Iran “destructive” to the U.S.-Israel relationship. Vice President Joe Biden and over 40 congressmen will not be at the speech. Arab dignitaries also rejected a request for attendance made by the Israeli government. Then last week Netanyahu rebuffed a separate invitation from Democrats to give them a private discussion, further casting the speech as a partisan issue.
Also on Saturday Secretary of State John Kerry gave an interview with ABC’s The Week, conveying that the U.S.’s relationship with Israel was not going to suffer, despite some very public hurdles. He noted the U.S. has “intervened on Israel’s behalf, in the last two years, more than several hundred — a couple of hundred times in over 75 different fora in order to protect Israel.” He added, “we don’t want to see this turned into some great political football,” continuing that although Netanyhu was not invited to the U.S. with approval from President Obama, “the administration is not seeking to politicize this.”
Even still, speaking in Geneva today, Kerry let on that Israel and their opposition to the Iran deal would not override what the U.S. wants. “Israel’s security is absolutely at the forefront of all of our minds, but frankly, so is the security of all the other countries in the region, so is our security in the United States,” said Kerry.