Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the AIPAC annual policy conference in Washington on Monday, touting the strength of US-Israel relations despite reports of tension between the two countries over the Iran issue.
“Reports of the demise of the Israeli-US relationship are not only premature, they’re just wrong,” he told the 16,000 attendees at the conference of the pro-Israel lobby.
“Our alliance is stronger than ever,” he said.
Netanyahu thanked, among others, Israeli envoy to the US Ron Dermer, “a man who knows how to take the heat.” Dermer was widely targeted for helping to set up Netanyahu’s controversial address to the US Congress scheduled for Tuesday together with Republican speaker of the House John Boehner. The White House was angered that the speech to Congress was scheduled without the coordination of US President Barack Obama.
“My speech is not intended to disrespect President Obama or the esteemed office that he holds,” Netanyahu said. “I have great respect for both.”
He said that he “deeply appreciates” everything that Obama has done for Israel.
Netanyahu said that the point of the speech was not to make Israel a partisan issue. Both Democratic and Republican presidents and congressmen have worked together to make Israel a strategic partner, he argued.
The purpose of the Congressional address is to speak out about an Iranian threat that threatens Israel’s survival, Netanyahu said.
The prime minister displayed a map showing the reach of Iran’s support of terrorism all over the globe. He said that an Iran with nuclear weapons would be able to carry pout its desire to destroy the State of Israel.
“We must not let that happen,” he said.
“No more” are the Jewish people passive in the face of threats of annihilation, Netanyahu said. “Those days are over.”
He said that he was speaking out against the threat before it was too late.
“Today we have a voice, and tomorrow as prime minister of the one and only Jewish state, I plan to use that voice,” he said.
Israel and the US agree on the need to prevent Iranian nuclear weapons, Netanyahu said, however the countries disagree on best way to prevent Iran getting those weapons, he added.
He cited examples in which Israel had defended itself against existential threats, even when its method of doing so was disagreed on by the United States.
Despite these disagreements the relationship had grown stronger and closer, Netanyahu claimed.
The values that Israel and the US share are stronger than the disagreements dividing the countries, he said.
He said that despite the fact that the Middle East was deteriorating into “barbarism,” Israel remained a Democratic state that respects religious minorities and women.
“In a dark and savage and desperate Middle East, Israel is a beacon of light, humanity and hope.
“Israel and the US are like family,” not just friends, Netanyahu held. He said that disagreements within families are uncomfortable, but what they hold in common keeps them together.