In an address to a joint meeting of Congress, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel warned against what he considers an ill-advised nuclear deal being negotiated with Iran. He is worried that Iran could develop a nuclear bomb soon, and expressed regret for the political attention the speech had received.
Pounding his finger on the lectern, Mr. Netanyahu vowed that the Jewish people would defend themselves against aggression in ways they never could before founding of the state of Israel.
“The days when the Jewish people remain passive in the face of genocidal enemies — those days are over,” he vowed.
“Israel will stand,” he pledged, even if that meant it had to “stand alone.”
Invoking the Holocaust and one of its most famous survivors, Elie Wiesel, Mr. Netanyahu said Mr. Wiesel’s work gives meaning to the words “never again.” Mr. Wiesel, in the audience, rose to a standing ovation, bowed and waved.
“I wish I could promise you, Elie, that the lessons of history have been learned,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “I can only urge the leaders of the world not to repeat the mistakes of the past,” he said.
Mr. Netanyahu argued that Iran’s government was weaker than it looks, given years of sanctions and the falling price of oil. They need the deal more than you do,” Netanyahu told Congress.
The Israeli prime minister said there was still time to roll back Iran’s nuclear program and that the world should not settle for delaying the inevitable.
“A pilot cannot fly without a plane,” he said. “Without thousands of centrifuges, Iran cannot make nuclear weapons.”
Lawmakers offered a standing ovation to Mr. Netanyahu’s direct challenge to Mr. Obama’s push for a deal with Iran.
“For over a year, we’ve been told that no deal is better than a bad deal,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “Well, this is a bad deal. It’s a very bad deal. We are better off without it.”
Mr. Netanyahu said Western nations did not have to accept the deal that Mr. Obama is negotiating with Iran.
“We don’t have to bet the security of the world on the hope that Iran will change for the better,” he said. “We don’t have to gamble with our future and our children’s future.”
He urged any negotiations to insist on three things: that Iran stop aggression against its neighbors; stop supporting terrorism; and stop threatening to destroy Israel. “If Iran wants to be treated like a normal country, let it act like a normal country,” he said to loud applause.
Raising the specter of a nuclear “tinder box,” Mr. Netanyahu said the proposed deal would lead to a more dangerous Iran and a Middle East littered with nuclear bombs.
He suggested that with a stronger economy, Iran would gobble up its neighbors and that kicking the can down the road was not a solution. He also warned that Iran might become a bigger financier of global terrorism.
“This deal won’t be a farewell to arms, it will be a farewell to arms control,” he said.
Mr. Netanyahu compared Iran first with the extremist group, then with the rogue regime, using the latter as an example of a country that flouted sanctions and inspectors to get nuclear weapons.
He said that Iran “plays a pretty good game of hide and cheat” with United Nations inspectors and that restricting its nuclear program for 10 years was a small price to pay for concessions.
Mr. Netanyahu said the deal being crafted by the United States and other world powers with Iran would provide a short “breakout time” in which the country could develop a nuclear bomb.
“Because Iran’s nuclear program would be largely intact, Iran’s breakout time would be very short,” Mr. Netanyahu said.
He warned that Iran might develop a bomb by violating the restrictions placed on it by a deal, adding that “inspectors document violations. They don’t stop them.”
But he also warned that Iran might be in a better position to develop nuclear weapons in a decade, even after submitting to the 10-year deal.
“Iran could have the means to deliver that nuclear arsenal to the far reaches of the earth including every part of the United States,” the prime minister said.
“It doesn’t block Iran’s path to the bomb, it paves Iran’s path to the bomb.
Mr. Netanyahu concluded with a message from Moses, saying “be strong and resolute.”
He said, “May Israel and America always stand together, strong and resolute.”