TEL AVIV — As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's divisive speech to Congress looms, the daylight between Israel and Washington on the Iranian file and their growing ideological rift became increasingly apparent.
In his view, it is an offer that "would enable Iran to threaten Israel's survival."
"I don't want to be coy, the prime minister and I have a very different idea of Iran sanctions," Obama echoed during a press briefing with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "I have been very clear and Angela agrees with me and [UK Prime Minister] David Cameron agrees with me, and the other members of the organizations agree that it does not make sense to sour the negotiations a month or two before they are about to be completed. And we should play that out, if in fact we can get a deal we should embrace that."
"[Netanyahu] doesn't want to close any deal. Obama also doesn't believe the current deal is the best, but he believes there's no other option," he said.
Netanyahu, undeterred from the onslaught of criticism stemming from the speech's proximity to the Israeli elections, repeated that a nuclear Iran threatens the entire region.
"Iran continues to forge ahead through the rubble of the new Middle East; it has already taken over four capitals, Damascus, Beirut, Baghdad and now Sana'a. Now it wants to open a third front from the Golan Heights … imagine what it will do when it has nuclear weapons," he said during a political stump speech visit to the West Bank settlement of Eli.
"Almost all the party leaders oppose the speech and believe the prime minister needs to come back down from the tall tree he climbed by accepting Republican House Speaker John Boehner's invitation," Bismouth said.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, who is running against Netanyahu as leader of the Zionist Union party, accused Netanyahu of unnecessarily undermining US-Israeli relations.
"Bibi [Netanyahu] has failed on Iran … now he is desperate. Due to panic and being under pressure from the upcoming elections, he is willing to sacrifice relations with the United States just to deliver an insignificant speech," he said.
"The mere fact he's going to Congress shows that he has no discreet and credible dialogue with the White House, which shows he has no stock with its leadership," former New York Consul-General to Israel Alon Pinkas told Defense News.
"He was wrong to go to Congress and accept the invitation, but most importantly, he was wrong to even elicit the invitation. He's recklessly turning Israel into a partisan issue in Washington, which we've adamantly avoided doing for decades," he added.
As for American criticism, former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell, "He is interfering in our internal affairs, and I don't want to interfere in Israeli internal affairs, but it strikes me that there's an awful lot going on in his neighborhood in the Middle East, and that's where he should be."
In Israel, the fallout from the scheduled speech has become a partisan issue that will likely impact its March 17 election.
Netanyahu, for his part, remained unfettered.
"I am going to the United States not because I seek a confrontation with the president, but because I must fulfill my obligation to speak up on a matter that affects the very survival of my country."