Netanyahu insists US Congress speech not political

WASHINGTON:  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted Tuesday his speech to a joint meeting of the US Congress was not political stunt, as he was received with a standing ovation.

Around 50 Democratic members stayed away from the event, during which Netanyahu was expected to warn that the nuclear deal being negotiated between the United States and Iran would threaten Israel’s security.

But many more lawmakers from both sides of the aisle did attend, and Netanyahu began his speech with praise for Republicans and Democrats and for US President Barack Obama.

“I know that my speech has been the subject of much controversy. I deeply regret that some perceive my being here as political,” he said.

“That was never my intention. You want to thank you, Democrats and Republicans, for your common support for Israel year after year, decade after decade.”

“We appreciate all that President Obama has done for Israel. Some of that is widely known,” he said, citing the close security cooperation between the countries.

“In each of those moments he was there. Some of what the president has done for Israel may never be known because it touches on some of the most sensitive and strategic issues that arise between an American president and an Israeli prime minister. I know it and I’ll always be grateful to President Obama for that support.”