Netanyahu: Congress Speech 'Well Worth the Cost of Confrontation' With Obama

PM also accuses a ‘well-funded coalition’ of trying to displace Likud by increasing voter turnout among Israeli Arabs and the Left.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses AIPAC in Washington, March 2, 2015.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses AIPAC in Washington, March 2, 2015.Credit: Bloomberg

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his speech to the U.S. Congress on Tuesday, in which he warned against a “bad” nuclear deal with Iran, was “well worth the cost of confrontation” with U.S. President Barack Obama.

Netanyahu made the comment in an interview published Friday in Israel Hayom, the Sheldon Adelson-backed freebie newspaper that is often accused of being the prime minister’s mouthpiece.

“A prime minister in Israel must be able to stand up even to our closest ally and tell the truth. Otherwise, history will not be kind to us,” said Netanyahu. “Until my visit to Washington, the hot-button issue was ISIS [Islamic State, also known as ISIL] ... My address to Congress and the debate that preceded it placed the issue of a nuclear Iran back on the global agenda.”

The prime minister also accused a “coalition” of forces of trying to increase the turnout among Arab citizens and the Left for the election on March 17, in order to depose him from government.

“There is a coalition, with overt as well as concealed motives, that seeks to topple the Likud government and replace it with a left-wing leadership,” said Netanyahu. “I am talking about very powerful organizations with foreign funding in the tens of millions of shekels, equipped with strategists and advisers, seeking two main objectives: To increase the voter turnout among the Left; and to increase the voter turnout among the Arabs. These are well-funded organizations that can get the Arab [Joint] List up to 16 seats, thereby determining the result of the elections as a whole.”

Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni – whose Zionist Union alliance is currently running neck and neck with Likud in the polls – were slammed as “unworthy” by Netanyahu, who said the coleaders would “not last one day under the pressure.

“Herzog and Livni are displaying zero ability to lead. Leadership is going against the current; withstanding pressure in order to defend the basic interests of your people. They are not showing any leadership capabilities, and they never will.”

Netanyahu reiterated that he will not form a coalition government with Zionist Union. “If I establish a unity government with them it would soon collapse,” he said. “My goal is to establish a true national government with Likud and our natural partners,” a reference to the likes of Habayit Hayehudi and the ultra-Orthodox parties.

The prime minister also explicitly praised Likud’s commitment to settlements. “I don’t think there is any government that ever fought harder than me for the settlement enterprise and national interests, in the face of the kind of pressure that no previous prime minister has ever faced,” said Netanyahu. “I think it is important for everyone to understand, especially those who criticize us, that if I am not in power, there will no longer be a settlement enterprise. They will be left with nothing.”

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