Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has arrived in the US ahead of a planned speech to Congress on Tuesday (March 3).
As he boarded the plane in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu described the Washington trip as “a fateful, even historic, mission.”
In an apparent breach of protocol, leaders from the Republican Party invited him to speak but didn’t forewarn the Obama administration, angering Democrats, officials say.
Netanyahu is expected to use his speech to argue against a possible nuclear deal with Iran and to approve new sanctions against the country.
Speaking prior to touchdown, a senior Israeli official told Reuters news agency:
“In my opinion, Congress could be the last brake for stopping the deal.”
The official said Israel was under the impression that members of Congress:
“Do not necessarily know the details of the deal coming together, which we do not see as a good deal…. It should be remembered that we are in favour of a good deal. We favour a deal that consensually strips Iran of its ability to attain a nuclear bomb.”
By the end of March, 2015, the US and the other so-called P5+1 states in charge of monitoring Iran, are hoping to formally address concerns that Tehran is pursuing nuclear technology. The Iranian government denies having this goal, however Netanyahu says Iran could still acquire a nuclear bomb if the planned deal goes ahead.
Netanyahu is also expected to talk about Islamist militant groups.
Some Democratic members of Congress – including Vice President Joe Biden – have declared they will not attend the speech.
US Secretary of State John Kerry told the press he hoped the speech would not become “some great political football,” but said the Prime Minister was “welcome to speak in the United States, obviously.”
Netanyahu will first address the largest Jewish interest group in the US – the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Susan Rice, Obama’s National Security Adviser, will also be speaking. Just under a week prior to the visit, she described it as “destructive to the fabric” of the US-Israel relationship.
However, the Prime Minister has pegged the visit as being beyond politics, instead framing himself as a guardian for all Jews.
His visit comes two weeks ahead of Israeli elections, scheduled for March 17, 2015. Current domestic polls appear to show his Likud Party is under pressure.