The Cable

Live Blog: Netanyahu Addresses Congress

Follow along for a live blog of Netanyahu's speech before the U.S. Congress.

Netanyahu Congress Crop

 

4:33 p.m.

President Barack Obama, speaking hours after Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told U.S. lawmakers to work to scuttle a nuclear deal with Iran, moved to undermine the prime minister’s arguments against an agreement.

“As far as I can tell, there was nothing new,” Obama told reporters in the Oval Office during a meeting with Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. “The alternative that the prime minister offers is no deal, in which case Iran will immediately begin, once again, pursuing its nuclear program, accelerating its nuclear program, without us having any insight into what we’re doing and without restraint.”

Read the president’s full remarks here.

3:14 p.m.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined British Prime Minister Winston Churchill Tuesday as the second world leader to address U.S. lawmakers three times. You can read his full remarks here, courtesy of the prime minister’s office.

2:48 p.m. 

President Barack Obama’s reaction to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech might be summed up in a single word: Meh.

Obama told reporters he did not watch the address to Congress, since he was talking to European leaders about the nearly yearlong war in eastern Ukraine. And when he got a moment to check out the transcript of the speech, “as far as I can tell, there was nothing new,” Obama said.

The president said he agreed with Netanyahu that the United States and Israel maintain a strong relationship, and that “no one can dispute” the prime minister’s charge that Iran has disparaged Israel — as well as threatened the Jewish state’s people.

But he signaled that Netanyahu failed to persuade him to derail the years-long nuclear negotiations that aim to prevent Tehran from building an atomic bomb.

“So the bottom line is this: We don’t yet have a deal,” Obama told reporters. “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.”

2:19 p.m.

For all of the hand-wringing leading up to Netanyahu’s speech, his address to Congress produced little drama beyond some shaking heads and thin-lipped faces.

As the Israeli prime minister launched into lambasting the nuclear talks between Iran and world powers, Democrats showed their disapproval of Netanyahu’s description of a “bad deal” at hand. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi was seen shaking her head. Other Democrats refused to join Republicans in their applause. And afterward, Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) said the 39-minute speech was “straight out of Dick Cheney’s daybook.”

Unsurprisingly — and perhaps with that line of thinking as the background — Republicans roundly praised Netanyahu’s warnings.

“We live in a world of danger, terror and evil — a reality that forces us to judge our enemies by their actions, not their word,” Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) said in a statement. “Prime Minister Netanyahu knows this, and I commend him for his courage to do everything in his power to protect his people — and ultimately the free world — from the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran.”

12:03 p.m.

It’s difficult to see whomever wrote Netanyahu’s address to Congress winning any awards for speechwriting. Between the mixed metaphors and trite language, the speech was one marked more by clunkers than soaring rhetoric. In arguing against a nuclear deal in Iran, Netanyahu fell back on a few lines of poetry that, in the context of an address to Congress on the risks posed by Tehran, were utterly clichéd. Misquoting the famous American poet, Netanyahu said that one doesn’t have to know Robert Frost to understand that “the difficult path is usually the one less traveled” to make the case or what Netanyahu described as a better agreement, one that would impose more strict restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program.

11:56 a.m.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress was long on rhetoric and saber-rattling but short on new details on a potential nuclear deal with Iran — and U.S. willingness to negotiate with it.

Making his case against a nuclear deal between world powers and Tehran, Netanyahu said Iran must first stop threatening its neighbors, and Israel, and cease its support for extremist groups. As it stands, he said, the potential agreement “will only change the Middle East for the worst.”

He said Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei intends to build 190,000 centrifuges — necessary not just to enrich uranium to power Tehran’s nuclear program, but to build an atomic weapon. Currently, Iran has 19,000 available centrifuges, and world powers have said they will not allow Tehran to harness enough power to use for potential weapons.

Many details of the potential deal — which faces a late March deadline — are still unknown. But officials have said it would require Iran to freeze its development of “sensitive” nuclear activity for 10 years.

“We’ve been told that no deal is better than a bad deal,” Netanyahu said. “Well, this is a bad deal. It’s a very bad deal. We’re better off without it.”

Lawmakers responded with a standing ovation.

Earlier, he said the tentative deal “doesn’t block Iran’s path to the bomb — it paves Iran’s path to the bomb.”

He called it a “countdown to a potential nightmare.”

11:49 a.m.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told U.S. lawmakers Tuesday that the ancient threat against the Israel was magnified with the widespread reach of modern technology.

Netanyahu said Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spreads the “oldest hatred … with the newest technology…. He tweets in English that Israel must be destroyed.” Khamenei — or someone tweeting in his name — has taken to social media on a number of occasions to threaten​ Israel and criticize the United States.

As Netanyahu spoke Tuesday morning, Khamenei’s Twitter account was silent. But yesterday, the supreme leader was full-throated in his criticism of Israel, rattling off a series of tweets blasting the United States for hosting the Israeli prime minister.

“Flattering Zionists is an obligation for US gov!Is there any bigger shame than presidential candidates compete on this issue? #ShutDownAIPAC,” Khamenei tweeted Monday, referring to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference where U.S. officials and Netanyahu spoke.

“Once ppl in West #realize their problems stem from Zionist domination over govts, great social movements will give #birth to a new world,” Khamenei added in a second tweet Monday.

11:38 a.m.

In describing the threat he believes Iran poses to the United States and its allies, Netanyahu is using a surprisingly comical tone. Speaking of Iran’s proxies in the region, Netanyahu referred to Tehran’s “goons in Gaza,” a reference to Hamas, and its “lackeys in Lebanon,” presumably Hezbollah. Netanyahu described the civil war between the Islamic State and its enemies as a “deadly Game of Thrones.” Netanyahu predicted that Iran — which at the speech’s outset he called a “Persian potentate” — will carry out a program of “hide-and-cheat” with nuclear inspectors if a wide-ranging deal to govern Tehran’s nuclear program is put in place. Such a deal, Netanyahu declared, wouldn’t be “a farewell to arms, it would be a farewell to arms control.”

11:30 a.m.

High-profile Democrats are bucking White House disapproval of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress — his third, and a speech that irritated the Obama administration for failing to follow diplomatic protocols.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Patty Murray of Washington were among the Democrats in the packed U.S. House of Representatives chamber. So was Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who got a shoutout from Bibi that rivaled the one that the prime minister himself got as he strode to the rostrum.

“Harry, it’s good to see you back on your feet,” Netanyahu said, referring to injuries Reid suffered from an exercise accident late last year. “I guess it’s true what they say — you can’t keep a good man down.”

Netanyahu called Congress the “most important legislative body in the world.” He also had warm words for President Barack Obama, and said he regrets the hard feelings his speech has spurred.

Netanyahu launched into his address with a plea for America to heed the threat of Tehran, and he accused Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of spreading old hatreds against Israel using the “newest technology” — namely, Twitter.

The prime minister is aiming to convince lawmakers to block a deal between Iran and world powers to let Tehran have a nuclear program — but not be able to build a nuclear bomb. Negotiators are working to meet a late-March deadline for a tentative deal.

Netanyahu’s speech was expected to last about 40 minutes and not offer many applause lines. Watching from the VIP box were: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Jewish-American political activist Elie Wiesel.

11:15 a.m.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu enters the chamber to loud applause. Lawmakers press the aisle to shake his hand. It takes more than a minute for him to get up to the front of the chamber.

Before he does, he waves to lawmakers and their guests, drawing hollers of approval from across the chamber. If there’s opposition to his speech, it’s not in the room Tuesday morning. He’s met with another loud ovation once he takes the lectern.

There are rumors his speech isn’t designed to draw applause. His entry inevitably did. Netanyahu now joins British Prime Minister Winston Churchill as the only world leader to address the U.S. Congress three times.

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

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