Amid a looming deal with Iran and a growing rift with the Democratic US administration, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hosted Sunday morning a delegation of US Senators led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at his office in Jerusalem.
“We are very much concerned for our common interests by the developments in the Middle East. As we are speaking, Iran is rampaging through Yemen; it is conquering the Middle East,” Netanyahu said at the start of the meeting. “And as Israel and the Arab countries see Iran progressing with its aggression to conquer Yemen and the Bab el-Mandeb straits, talks continue as usual and go on, on a deal that from everything that we hear paves Iran’s way to the bomb.”
Turning to the Republican Senate leader, Netnayahu said, “I’m delighted always to see you and all Representatives from the US Congress and Senators. We have a strong bipartisan base of support for alliance.”
The prime minister also said that he spoke on Friday with Democratic minority leader Harry Reid, and “congratulated him on his years of service and also his years of support for the Israeli-American alliance. This is something that I think cuts across the aisle in the United States. And I believe we’ll continue to do so.”
Senator McConnell addressed Netanyahu controversial speech to Congress at the beginning on the month. “We were all extraordinarily impressed with your address to the joint session a few weeks ago,” he said. “I want to assure all Israelis that the US-Israel relationship is still, no matter what’s been said recently, in very, very strong shape on a bipartisan basis in the US Congress.”
The most powerful Republican also vowed that if there’s an agreement with Iran, the Senate will push a bipartisan bill that will require the agreement to be presented to Congress for approval. And “if there’s no deal, then the view of this group, similar to your own, is that ratcheting up sanctions might be the best direction to take in the wake of a deal that does not come together.”
House Speaker John Boehner is expected to visit to Israel later this week. In an interview with CNN’s State of the union Sunday morning program, Boehner called the Obama administration’s treatment of Netanyahu “reprehensible.”
“I think the animosity exhibited by our administration toward the prime minister of Israel is reprehensible,” the Republican House leader said.
Boehner also insisted his trip to Israel isn’t intended as “victory lap” for Netanyahu, whom some say the speech to Congress was initiated by the GOP in an effort to help the Likud leader win a tough reelection bid. “My visit there was planned months ago before the prime minister came here or before his reelection,” he said. “So it’s not quite what I would describe as a victory lap.”
The speaker, who’s arriving on the day of the 20th Knesset inauguration, won’t be addressing the Knesset. “I don’t need all the fanfare,” he said.