03.03.15

Comment Of Senator Patrick Leahy After Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Address Before A Joint Meeting Of Congress

I watched the Prime Minister’s speech on television and also will review it more fully later.

I have long supported U.S. aid to ensure Israel’s ability to defend itself.  I have had many private meetings with Israeli leaders over the years.  And I have long supported Israeli-Palestinian negotiations toward a peace settlement that would help ensure Israel’s security.

I agree with the President, the Prime Minister and many others that a nuclear Iran would be a danger to Israel, to the region, and to the United States.  Prior to the start of negotiations, despite years of sanctions, the Iranian nuclear program made rapid advances.  The current negotiations have frozen the program and moved us toward the goal of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

The reckless and unilateral way that House leaders have gone about this has needlessly spawned strains in our long relationship with Israel.  The Speaker has ignored many decades of bipartisan precedent.  Because of the implications for U.S. national security and foreign policy, when foreign leaders have been invited to address a Joint Meeting of Congress, that has been done with close consultations across the aisle and with the White House.  But not this time, and just days away from Israel’s election as well.

The way this has been handled has needlessly injected domestic politics into our relations with Israel, while harmfully sowing seeds of division in our own country.  When it comes to American foreign policy, we need to speak and act thoughtfully, with one voice when we can, and with the national interests of the United States as the uppermost consideration.   

We have a close partnership with our longtime ally Israel that dates back more than five decades.  Like any relationship, this one has had its ups and downs, as each nation evaluates its own distinct national security and foreign policy interests, as well as our shared goals.  But I have no doubt that our close alliance with Israel will endure.

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