Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged on Tuesday that the purpose of his upcoming visit to Washington, D.C. is to do "everything I can" to prevent a nuclear deal between global powers and Iran—an admission that critics say reveals he is pushing for military escalation and potentially war.
"This agreement, if indeed it is signed, will allow Iran to become a nuclear threshold state," Netanyahu declared in a statement released Tuesday, according to media reports. "It is my obligation as prime minister to do everything that I can to prevent this agreement."
"Therefore," he continued, "I will go to Washington... because the American Congress is likely to be the final brake before the agreement."
Analysts say that the prime minister's push to undermine the diplomatic process is ultimately a call for dangerous military escalation.
According to Jamal Abdi of the National Iranian American Council, who spoke with Common Dreams, "A shorter version of what Netanyahu is saying is he is coming to Washington to ensure we can't get a diplomatic solution and are on the path to war."
Phyllis Bennis, senior fellow at Institute for Policy Studies, told Common Dreams that amid the controversy over his visit, the prime minister is facing a growing crisis of international legitimacy.
"Luckily Netanyahu has so thoroughly discredited himself that 'everything I can do' is likely to be limited to speaking to adoring crowds at AIPAC, receiving concocted standing ovations in Congress, and watching pretty much everyone else in Washington run away from him so no embarrassing picture might emerge," said Bennis.
Numerous doubts have been cast on Netanyahu's claims about Iran's nuclear program, including by Israel's own spy agency Mossad, as leaked documents revealed earlier this week.
While there is no proof that Iran has a program to develop an atom bomb, Israel is the only Middle East nation that is known to possess nuclear weapons and has refused to sign the international non-proliferation treaty.
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Nonetheless, Netanyahu has aggressively opposed any deal—or even talks—between Iran and the five members of the United Nations Security Council (U.S., Russia, China, United Kingdom, and France) plus Germany. His address to Washington is slated to take place shortly before Israeli elections. Over the course of the campaign, Netanyahu has repeatedly emphasized unverified claims over threats posed by Iran to bolster his own candidacy.
Meanwhile, a political divide in Washington over the visit—which was arranged by GOP House Speaker John Boehner and the Israeli ambassador without the blessing of the White House—continues to deepen.
Obama's national security adviser Susan Rice slammed Netanyahu in an interview with the PBS show Charlie Rose on Tuesday, charging that his slated visit has "injected a degree of partisanship, which is not only unfortunate, I think it’s destructive of the fabric of the relationship."
According to the New York Times, Rice's statement is "the frankest acknowledgment yet by a top American official of the degree to which the controversy has damaged United States-Israeli relations."
Also on Tuesday, Netanyahu turned down an invitation from Senate Democrats Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) for a closed-door meeting during his visit. "I regret that the invitation to address the special joint session of Congress has been perceived by some to be political or partisan," Netanyahu told them. "I can assure you that my sole intention in accepting it was to voice Israel’s grave concerns about a potential nuclear agreement with Iran that could threaten the survival of my country."
Notably, top Obama administration officials will not be attending the talk, and a congressional boycott, which has been backed by human rights and Palestine solidarity groups, has been steadily gaining support.
"The willingness by leading political figures—including the president, vice president, and secretary of state—to simply refuse to meet with the Israeli leader is a huge breakthrough that was made possible by the years of organizing by human rights activists working to expose and end U.S. complicity with Israeli war crimes and violations of human rights," said Bennis.
Bennis added that Netanyahu's actions may, in fact, prove to bolster these grassroots efforts. Even for Netanyahu, said Bennis, it appears that the prime minister's "chutzpah may have gotten out in front of him this time."