Sun Feb 8, 2015 2:0AM
Israeli opposition leaders have called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cancel his contentious planned speech before the US Congress.
Israeli Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog said on Saturday that the speech “endangers … the special relationship between Israel and the US.”
“Netanyahu must act as an Israeli patriot and not throw Israel’s security under the wheels of the elections bus,” Herzog said, referring to Israel’s March 17 general elections.
Last month, US House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner invited Netanyahu to Congress to speak about the “threat” of Iran’s nuclear program while Tehran and world powers are still negotiating to reach a final nuclear agreement.
The invitation to address the new Republican-dominated Congress was extended without consultation with the White House or the State Department.
Israeli Finance Minister and centrist leader Yair Lapid also criticized the scheduled speech, saying that Netanyahu is “causing great damage to Israel’s strategic relationship with the US.”
“Bibi has succeeded in alienating the White House and now half of Congress,” Lapid noted, adding, “It’s a political act aimed only at garnering a few more votes in the elections.”
Zahava Gal-On, the leader of the left-wing Meretz party, also called for the cancellation of the March 3 address.
Israel and the US have been at odds over the controversial speech. In the latest blow to Israel, US Vice President Joe Biden’s office said in a statement on Saturday that he would skip the address.
Moreover, the White House has said US President Barack Obama would not meet with Netanyahu during his trip to Washington.
A State Department official stated that Secretary of State John Kerry would also not meet with the Israeli premier.
Netanyahu, who is against a comprehensive Iran nuclear accord, has been repeatedly trying to persuade congressmen to vote in favor of additional sanctions against Tehran.
Obama has threatened to veto new Iran sanctions legislation.