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Benjamin Netanyahu: Why I'm speaking to Congress

Excerpted from the Israeli prime minister's remarks Monday in Jerusalem to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Why am I going to Washington? Because, as prime minister of Israel, it's my obligation to do everything in my power to prevent the conclusion of a bad deal that could threaten the survival of the State of Israel.

The current proposal to Iran would endanger Israel. It would enable Iran to build its first nuclear device within an unacceptably short time. And it would allow Iran to build an industrial capability to enrich uranium that could provide the fuel for many bombs in the coming years.

A regime that openly calls for Israel's destruction would thus have finally the means to realize its genocidal aims.

Now mind you, I'm not opposed to any deal with Iran. I'm opposed to a bad deal with Iran. And I believe this is a very bad deal.

I'm certainly not opposed to negotiations. On the contrary: No country has a greater stake in the peaceful resolution of the Iranian nuclear question than does Israel.

But the current proposal won't solve the problem. It will perpetuate and aggravate the problem. It would provide a path for Iran to become a nuclear power. And so it's very important that I speak about this in Washington.

Why am I going to Congress? Because Israel has been offered the chance to make its case on this crucial issue before the world's most important parliament; because a speech before Congress allows Israel to present its position to the elected representatives of the American people and to a worldwide audience; because Congress has played a critical role in applying pressure to the Iranian regime — the very pressure that brought the ayatollahs to the negotiating table in the first place, and because Congress may well have a say on any final deal.

I think the real question is: How could any responsible Israeli prime minister refuse to speak to Congress on a matter so important to Israel's survival?

How could anyone refuse an invitation to speak on a matter that could affect our very existence when such an invitation is offered?

Why go now? The deadline for reaching an agreement with Iran is March 24. That date drives the speech. Now is the time for Israel to make its case — before it's too late.

Would it be better to complain about a deal that threatens the security of Israel after it's signed? It's more responsible to speak out now to try to influence the negotiations while they're still ongoing.

The whole point of Zionism is that the Jewish people would no longer be spectators to the decision-making that determines our fate. We were once powerless. We were once voiceless. We couldn't even speak on our own behalf. Well, now we can and we do.

The answer to all three questions is the same. Why Congress? Why Washington? Why now? Because of the grave dangers posed by the deal on the table right now.

I don't see this in partisan terms. The survival of Israel is not a partisan issue. It concerns everyone, all supporters of Israel of every political stripe.

The fight against militant Islamic terrorism is not a partisan issue. The battle against the Islamic State, which just beheaded 21 Christians, is not. And the effort to prevent the Islamic Republic from building nuclear weapons, that's not a partisan issue either.

The pursuit of nuclear weapons by Iran is the most urgent security challenge facing the world. The greatest danger facing humanity is the possibility that any movement or any regime of militant Islam will arm itself with weapons of mass destruction.

Everything that we see in our region now will pale by comparison. Everything that we see in Europe will pale by comparison.

When a militant Islamic regime that is rampaging through the region right now — that's what Iran is doing, it's conducting a rampage through the region — when such a regime has nuclear weapons, the whole world will be in peril.

Look at what Iran is doing now without nuclear weapons. States are collapsing — and Iran is plunging forward. It already controls four capitals.

It's trying to envelope Israel with three terrorist tentacles — Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza and now it's trying to build with its Hezbollah proxies a third front in the Golan.

With nuclear weapons, such a regime would be infinitely more dangerous to everyone, not only to Israel.

Can I guarantee that my speech in Congress will prevent a dangerous deal with Iran from being signed? Honestly, I don't know. No one knows.

But I do know this — it's my sacred duty as prime minister of Israel to make Israel's case. On March 3, I'll fulfill that duty, representing all the citizens of Israel before the two houses of Congress.

And I'll make the best case for Israel that I can, knowing that our case is just, that our case is sound and that our case offers the best hope to resolve this issue peacefully.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

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Posted: February 18, 2015 Wednesday 07:38 PM