President Obama’s White House-Rueters Interview
PBO on Netanyahu pending speech to Congress: “I don’t think it’s permanently destructive, I think it’s a DISTRACTION from what should be our focus”
REUTERS – Let’s talk a little bit specifically about the prime minister. Susan Rice said that what he has done by accepting the invitation to speak was destructive to the fabric of the relationship. Would you agree that it’s destructive? And if so, will there be any consequences for him or for Israel?
OBAMA – You know, I think that Prime Minister Netanyahu is sincere about his concerns with respect to Iran. And given Iran’s record and given the extraordinarily disruptive and dangerous activities of this regime in the region, it’s understandable why Israel is very concerned about Iran. We are too. But what we’ve consistently said is we have to stay focused on our ultimate goal, which is preventing Iran from having a nuclear weapon.
Now, as a matter of policy, we think it’s a mistake for the prime minister of any country to come to speak before Congress a few weeks before they are about to have an election. It makes it look like we are taking sides.
REUTERS – But aside from that, what about that is destructive?
OBAMA – I’m answering your question, Jeff. And the concern is, not only does it look like it politicizes the relationship but what’s also a problem is when the topic of the prime minister’s speech is an area where the executive branch – the U.S. president and his team – have a disagreement with the other side.
I think those who offered the invitation and some of the commentators who have said this is the right thing to do, it’s worth asking them whether, when George W. Bush had initiated the war in Iraq and Democrats were controlling Congress, if they had invited let’s say the president of France to appear before Congress to criticize or to air those disagreements, I think most people would say, well, that wouldn’t be the right thing to do. I guarantee you that some of the same commentators who are cheerleading now would have suggested that it was the wrong thing to do.
I don’t think it’s permanently destructive. I think that it is a distraction from what should be our focus. And our focus should be,‘How do we stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon?’ Now keep in mind the prime minister, when we signed up for this interim deal that would essentially freeze Iran’s program, roll back its highly enriched uranium – its 20 percent highly enriched uranium – and so reduce the possibility that Iran might breakout while we were engaged in these negotiations, when we first announced this interim a deal, Prime Minister Netanyahu made all sorts of claims. This was going to be a terrible deal. This was going to result in Iran getting 50 billion dollars worth of relief. Iran would not abide by the agreement. None of that has come true.
Meanwhile MSM pushes Netanyahu’s visit.