Several US Democrats irate over Benjamin Netanyahu addressing Congress over Iran’s nuclear program have blasted the Israeli prime minister as a fear-mongerer leading a stampede to war.
Dozens of House and Senate Democrats boycotted Netanyahu’s speech, arguing he should not have been invited by Republican leaders just two weeks before his own country’s elections and amid delicate international negotiations to rein in Iran’s nuclear program.
Other Democrats who attended appeared exasperated or annoyed, including top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who was often the last to rise for standing ovations led by Republicans approval of Netanyahu’s warnings.
“I was near tears… saddened by the insult to the intelligence of the United States … and saddened by the condescension toward our knowledge of the threat posed by Iran and our broader commitment to preventing nuclear proliferation,” she said.
Politicians slammed the visiting dignitary’s performance as an “affront”, “condescending”, and blatant “political theatre worthy of an Oscar”.
An impassioned Netanyahu warned the deal the Obama administration was negotiating with Tehran would merely leave the Islamic republic on a path to nuclear weapons and imperil the world.
The speech was “fear-mongering” that was “straight out of the Dick Cheney playbook”, congressman John Yarmuth told reporters, referring to the hawkish Bush-era vice president.
The speech was one of the most contentious in years in the House, and as many as 60 Democrats stayed away.
One of them was congressman Earl Blumenauer, who said Netanyahu time and again has gruffly pushed the US towards war.
“I’ve listened to his alarmist predictions. I listened to him cheerlead for the United States’ greatest single blunder in our history, the Iraq war,” Blumenauer said.
In Tuesday’s address, he added, Netanyahu “gave no alternative path forward, just… a series of demands”.
Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky bristled at Netanyahu’s antagonistic approach.
“What I heard today felt to me like an effort to stampede the United States into war once again,” Schakowsky said.
Several Democrats, including Senator Robert Menendez and Senator Chuck Schumer, appeared strongly supportive of Netanyahu, who was received warmly by a joint meeting of Congress.
And Republicans gave a rapturous welcome to Netanyahu, who was invited to Washington by House Speaker John Boehner without consulting the White House or Democratic congressional leaders, triggering uproar.