Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech Monday to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee may have touched on the controversy surrounding his impending speech to Congress with humor, but he made it clear the true point of his speech was deadly serious.
As the U.S. and Iran work toward a perilously bad deal over development of the latter's nuclear weapons program, Netanyahu will speak to a joint session Tuesday about the dangers for the Jewish state if Iran gains nuclear capabilities.
Netanyahu joked about the controversy surrounding Tuesday's speech, saying "you may not have heard" he would be addressing Congress, drawing laughter and sustained applause. The White House is furious about Netanyahu's appearance. President Obama will not meet Netanyahu while he is in Washington, and dozens of Democrats will not attend Netanyahu's address. Recently, an anonymous White House official called the prime minister a "chickenshit."
"Never has so much been written about a speech that hasn't been given," Netanyahu said. "I'm not going to speak today about the content of that speech, but I do want to say a few words about the purpose of that speech."
After saying he did not intend to create partisan discord with his appearance, Netanyahu spoke of Iran's "tentacles of terror" it has around the globe and how the Islamic Republic desires to destroy Israel.
"We must not let that happen," Netanyahu said, pounding the podium for emphasis.
Iran, the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism, has long sought a nuclear weapon, and while the U.S. and Israel agree Iran should never have one, Netanyahu said there was stark disagreement on how to go about achieving that end. While Obama has made it a second-term goal to reach a deal with Tehran, Netanyahu has warned repeatedly that the deal he seeks is a terrible one. The proposal would not end Iran's nuclear ambitions, as Israel seeks, but rather would lift sanctions and, according to the Associated Press, "slowly ease restrictions on programs that could be used to make atomic arms."
"I have a moral obligation to speak up in the face of these dangers while there is still time to avert them," Netanyahu said. "The days when the Jewish people are passive in the face of threats to annihilate us, those days are over!"
We defend ourselves, Netanyahu said, in the face of surrounding dangers.
"Today, we have a voice–As Prime Minister of the one and only Jewish State, I plan to use that voice," he said.
Updated: An earlier version of this post had the wrong acronym for AIPAC.