US Sen. Sanders: I will boycott netanyahu speech at Congress
Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont says he will not attend the March 3 joint session of the US Congress where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to speak about Iran.
“The president of the United States heads up our foreign policy. The idea that the president wasn’t even consulted — that is wrong and not a good thing for our country,” Sanders said in response to a question about Netanyahu’s speech before Congress.
“I am not going. I may watch it on TV, but I’m not going,” he told the audience at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington on Monday.
Top Obama administration officials and members of the Democratic Party are angry at Netanyahu over his acceptance of a last month invitation by House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner to address Congress without coordinating with President Barack Obama.
The list of House Democratic lawmakers who have said they will not attend the Netanyahu speech is growing, but Sanders became the first senator to announce he would boycott the event.
Over a dozen congressional Democrats say they would skip Netanyahu’s speech before Congress amid reports that he might withdraw from the planned address, the Washington-based The Hill newspaper reported on Monday.
US Vice President Joe Biden has already said he would not attend the speech due to a scheduling conflict.
Although Netanyahu struck a defiant tone on Monday, saying he would go ahead with his address to Congress to “prevent dangerous agreement” with Iran, but the Israeli premier is reportedly under intense pressure to pull out from the event.
Iran and the P5+1 states – the US, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany – are in talks to narrow their differences and pave the way for a final, long-term accord aimed at putting an end to the 12-year-old dispute over Tehran’s nuclear energy program.
The scale of Iran’s uranium enrichment and the timetable for the lifting of anti-Iran sanctions are seen as major sticking points in the talks.
Speaking at the White House on Monday, Obama said he has sharp differences with Netanyahu on the Iranian nuclear issue and warned him against souring negotiations with Tehran by visiting Washington, DC.
“I don’t want to be coy. The [Israeli] Prime Minister and I have a very real difference around Iran’s sanctions,” Obama said.
“It does not make sense to sour the negotiations a month or two before they’re about to be completed and we should play that out. If, in fact, we can get a deal, then we should embrace that,” he added.