Netanyahu to Meet Democratic, Republican Senate Leaders in Washington

PM to discuss Iran deal with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader Harry Reid; White House to send Rice, Power to address AIPAC conference.

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Barak Ravid
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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (R) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (R) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).Credit: Reuters
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to meet with the Democratic and Republican Senate leaders during his trip to Washington, a senior Israeli official said Thursday.

The closed-door meeting will be held amid escalating tensions between the two parties and a crisis in the ties between the White House and the Prime Minister's Office over Netanyahu's upcoming Congress speech.

The official's remarks were made shortly after AIPAC announced that President Barack Obama's National Security Adviser Susan Rice and UN Ambassador Samantha Power will address the organization's conference next week.

According to the senior official, Netanyahu accepted the invitation extended by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Harry Reid in order to continue discussing the unfolding agreement with Iran in a closed and bipartisan forum.

The official added that the meeting will be held immediately after Netanyahu's Congress address on Tuesday afternoon.

Susan Rice and Barack Obama.Credit: AP

"The prime minister thinks that the speech carries importance at this time," the official said. "He is certain of the significance of the explanation that he will provide as to why the unfolding agreement with Iran is a bad agreement.

"Congress is the place to explain why this is a dangerous deal. The speech isn't against the U.S. administration. It is against a bad deal with Iran. "

AIPAC conference

Earlier, AIPAC announced that the White House will send Rice and Power to speak at the pro-Israel lobby group's annual conference next week.

In her speech, Rice is expected to address the deal with Iran, as well as the crisis in the ties with Israel. On Wednesday, Rice charged that Netanyahu's Congress speech is destructive to the relations between the two countries.

While Rice and Power are high-ranking officials in the Obama administration, they are not as senior as others who have addressed AIPAC in the past. President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry were among the officials who spoke at the conference in previous years.

"The relationship between the U.S. and Israel has always been bipartisan and we have been fortunate that the politics have not been injected into this relationship," Rice said in an interview with Charlie Rose on Wednesday.

"What has happened over the last several weeks by virtue of the invitation that was issued by the speaker and the acceptance of it by Prime Minister Netanyahu two weeks before his elections is that on both sides there have been injected some degree of partisanship.

"It is not only unfortunate but it is also destructive of the fabric of the relationship. It has always been bipartisan and we want to keep it that way. When it becomes injected with politics that's a problem. We want the relationship to be strong regardless of which party may be in charge in each country."

Netanyahu will travel to Washington on Sunday. He will address AIPAC on Monday, before addressing Congress on Tuesday.

Netanyahu on Thursday wrote on his Facebook page that he has visited the grave of his father, Benzion Netanyahu, ahead of the trip.

The prime minister wrote that his father "never hesitated to go out into the storm and contribute to the nation's defense with all the means at his disposal."

He further stated that he is continuing his father's legacy by traveling to Washington to address Congress.

"I will travel to the U.S. to voice Israel's stance against the unfolding nuclear agreement, which will give Iran nuclear weapons," he wrote.

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