WASHINGTON — Seeking to lower tensions, Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. officials cast their dispute over Iran as a family squabble on Monday, even as the Israeli leader claimed President Obama did not — and could not — fully understand his nation’s vital security concerns.
“American leaders worry about the security of their country,” Netanyahu said as he opened a controversial trip to Washington. “Israeli leaders worry about the survival of their country.”
Netanyahu’s remarks to a friendly crowd at a pro-Israel lobby’s annual conference amounted to a warm-up act for his address to Congress Tuesday, an appearance orchestrated by Obama’s political opponents and aimed squarely at undermining the White House’s high-stakes bid for a nuclear deal with Iran.
Netanyahu tried to paper over his personal differences with Obama, insisting he was not in Washington to “disrespect” the president and saying any reports of the demise of U.S.-Israel ties were “not only premature, they’re just wrong.”
The prime minister’s remarks were bracketed by speeches from a pair of top Obama advisers: U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power and National Security Adviser Susan Rice, whose address served as a preemptive rebuttal of Netanyahu’s expected critique of the Iran negotiations Tuesday.