Netanyahu speech to US congress will harm ties with US: Rice

AFP , Wednesday 25 Feb 2015

File Photo: National Security Advisor Susan Rice speaks to the press in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, November 7, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's acceptance of an invitation to address the US Congress, without the blessing of the White House, is destructive to US-Israeli ties, a senior official said Tuesday.

The comments by National Security Advisor Susan Rice are some of the harshest yet regarding Republican House speaker John Boehner's invitation to the Israeli leader to speak to lawmakers, bypassing protocol by not advising President Barack Obama first.

Obama and other Democrats have said they will not attend the speech on March 3 in Washington. Obama has said his attendance would be seen as partisan, with Israeli elections on March 17.

Democrats also say the appearance by Netanyahu will undermine nuclear talks with Iran and have urged a postponement of the speech.

Rice, in an interview Tuesday with journalist Charlie Rose on PBS, said US relations with Israel have always had a bipartisan nature. But the invitation for the speech now breaks that tradition and adds a political component, she said.

"What has happened over the last several weeks by virtue of the invitation that was issued by the Speaker and the acceptance of it by Prime Minister Netanyahu two weeks in advance of his election is that on both sides there has now been injected a degree of partisanship," Rice said.

"Which is not only unfortunate, I think it is destructive of the fabric of the relationship," Rice added.

"It has always been bipartisan. We need to keep it that way. We want it that way. I think Israel wants its that way, the American people want it that way."

Rice declined to say if she thought Netanyahu intended to influence the election in his country by making the speech.

"When it becomes injected with politics that's a problem," she added, however.

"The point is we want the relationship between the US and Israel to be unquestionably strong, immutable, regardless of political seasons in either country," Rice said.

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