Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a major address to Congress on Tuesday and warned against making a deal that could leave Iran on the path toward nuclear weapons. At the White House, President Barack Obama offered a pointed rebuttal during a brief Oval Office photo opportunity. Obama said he had read a transcript of the prime minister’s remarks and that Netanyahu had offered no viable suggestions on how to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.
Excerpts of remarks by both leaders:
NETANYAHU: “I deeply regret that some perceive my being here as political. That was never my intention. I want to thank you, Democrats and Republicans, for your common support for Israel, year after year, decade after decade.
“I know that no matter on which side of the aisle you sit, you stand with Israel.”
OBAMA: “The prime minister I think appropriately pointed out that the bond between the United States and America is unbreakable, and on that point, I thoroughly agree.”
NETANYAHU: “I feel a profound obligation to speak to you about an issue that could well threaten the survival of my country and the future of my people: Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons.”
“We must all stand together to stop Iran’s march of conquest, subjugation and terror.”
OBAMA: “He (Netanyahu) also pointed out that Iran has been a dangerous regime and continues to engage in activities that are contrary to the interest of the United States, to Israel, and to the region. And on that we agree.
“He also pointed out the fact that Iran has repeatedly threatened Israel and engaged in the most venomous of anti-Semitic statements, and no one can dispute that.”
NETANYAHU: “If Iran’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile program is not part of the deal, and so far, Iran refuses to even put it on the negotiating table — well, Iran could have the means to deliver that nuclear arsenal to the far-reach corners of the earth, including to every part of the United States.”
“This deal has two major concessions: one, leaving Iran with a vast nuclear program and two, lifting the restrictions on that program in about a decade. That’s why this deal is so bad. It doesn’t block Iran’s path to the bomb. It paves Iran’s path to the bomb.”
OBAMA: “Now, the deal that we are trying to negotiate, that is not yet completed, would cut off the different pathways for Iran to advance its nuclear capabilities. It would roll back some elements of its program. It would ensure that it did not have what we call a breakout capacity that was shorter than a year’s time. And it would subject Iran to the most vigorous inspections and verifications regimes that have ever been put in place.
“The alternative that the prime minister offers is no deal, in which case Iran will immediately begin once again pursuing its nuclear program, accelerate its nuclear program, without us having any insight into what they’re doing. And without constraint.”
NETANYAHU: “Iran’s neighbors know that Iran will become even more aggressive and sponsor even more terrIorism when its economy is unshackled and it’s been given a clear path to the bomb. And many of these neighbors say they’ll respond by racing to get nuclear weapons of their own.”
“Before lifting those restrictions, the world should demand that Iran do three things. First, stop its aggression against its neighbors in the Middle East.
“Second, stop supporting terrorism around the world.
“And third, stop threatening to annihilate my country, Israel, the one and only Jewish state.”
OBAMA: “So the bottom line is this. We don’t yet have a deal. It may be that Iran cannot say yes to a good deal. I have repeatedly said that I would rather have no deal than a bad deal. But if we’re successful in negotiating, then, in fact, this will be the best deal possible to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Nothing else comes close. Sanctions won’t do it. Even military action would not be as successful as the deal that we have put forward.
“And I think it is very important not to be distracted by the nature of the Iranian regimes’ ambitions when it comes to territory or terrorism. All issues which we share a concern with Israel about and are working consistently with Israel on. Because we know that if, in fact, they obtained a nuclear weapon, all those problems would be worse.
NETANYAHU: “If Iran threatens to walk away from the table — and this often happens in a Persian bazaar — call their bluff. They’ll be back, because they need the deal a lot more than you do.”
“We’re being told that the only alternative to this bad deal is war. That’s just not true. The alternative to this bad deal is a much better deal.”
OBAMA: “But when it comes to this nuclear deal, let’s wait until there’s absolutely a deal on the table that Iran has agreed to, at which point everyone can evaluate it. We don’t have to speculate. And what I can guarantee is that if it’s a deal I’ve signed off on, I will be able to prove that it is the best way for us to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. And for us to pass up on that potential opportunity would be a grave mistake. It’s not one that I intend to make, and I will take that case to every member of Congress once we actually have a deal.”
NETANYAHU: “I can promise you one more thing: Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand.”