The US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, has moved to calm Israeli nerves about ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran insisting that Washington will never allow it to acquire a nuclear weapon.
The remarks came amidst unusual tensions between Israel and the United States over the issue with the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, preparing to deliver a highly controversial speech to the US Congress tomorrow when he is expected once more to criticise the push for a diplomatic deal with Iran.
In a preview of his address to Congress, Mr Netanyahu said that the very existence of his country is at stake where Iran’s nuclear ambitions are concerned and that he is impelled to speak up. But he also sought to dispel the impression of a US-Israel partnership in peril.
Both were speaking at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, AIPAC, which usually serves a showcase for the US-Israeli friendship. Ms Power said that whatever the outcome of the current talks, with Iran on one side of the table and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany on the other, the US will never tolerate a nuclear weapons Iran.
“The US of America will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon, period,” she said. She also indicated that while the visit by Mr Netanyahu to Washington, during which he will address the Republican-led US Congress but will not meet with President Barack Obama, had stirred some partisan rancour that too would never get in the way of America’s commitments to Israel.
“We believe firmly that Israel’s security and the US-Israel partnership transcends politics and it always will,” she said to applause. “This partnership should never be politicised and cannot and should not be broken.” The White House is known to be livid that the Prime Minister accepted the invitation from the Republican leadership in Congress to make his speech tomorrow without consulting with Mr Obama.
Mr Netanyahu insisted that relations between his country and the US were not at risk because of the Iran disagreement.
“You are here to tell the world that reports of the demise of the US-Israel relationship are not only premature they are just wrong,” he told the 16,000 delegates attending the AIPAC confab. “Our alliance is stronger than ever.”
For his own part, Mr Netanyahu was also at pains to downplay the toxic impact the Iran issue and his mere presence in Washington has stirred. “The last thing that I would want is for Israel to be a partisan issue,” he said. His speech to Congress is “not intended to inject Israel into the American partisan debate”, nor did he mean to show disrespect to Mr Obama or the US presidency, he insisted.
Israel must use its voice to defend itself, Mr Netanyahu said adding that he would use that voice before Congress to highlight the perils of dealing with an “Iranian regime that is threatening to destroy Israel, that is devouring country after country in the Middle East, that is exporting terror throughout the world and is developing as we speak the capacity to make nuclear weapons, lots of them.”
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies