Mon Feb 16, 2015 10:56AM
Former US secretary of defense Leon Panetta has warned about the consequences of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress next month.
“I’m afraid what is going to happen here with what Netanyahu will do is to make this partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans and that makes it a very dangerous trap,” Panetta said Sunday.
Panetta was referring to the significant issues between the country’s two main parties about the invitation of the Israeli leader.
House Speaker John Boehner, who is a Republican, invited Netanyahu to address Congress about Iran’s sanctions on March 3.
Boehner issued the invitation just hours after Democratic President Barack Obama threatened to veto any Iran sanctions bill during his State of the Union address on January 20.
A number of Democrats called on Boehner to postpone Netanyahu’s speech, saying the address threatens Iran’s nuclear talks.
“The timing of this invitation and lack of coordination with the White House indicate that this is not an ordinary diplomatic visit,” Reps. Keith Ellison, Maxine Waters, and Steve Cohen wrote in a letter.
Calling on lawmakers to find another way to listen to the Israeli leader’s views without it being used as a “partisan presentation,” Panetta said it will be up to individual lawmakers to decide if they will attend the speech.
“We need to get back to presidents and Congresses who can work together to try to confront the challenges we face,” he added.
Netanyahu said that he would use the speech to criticize the Obama administration over diplomacy with Iran.
Iran and the P5+1 states — the US, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany — are in talks to narrow their differences and pave the way for a final, long-term nuclear accord.