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Netanyahu: I Respect Obama, but Israeli Security is My Priority

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prays at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, Feb. 28, 2015.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prays at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, Feb. 28, 2015.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday that he respected President Barack Obama and believed in strong ties with the U.S, but that Israel's security was his top obligation.

Netanyahu made a rare pilgrimage to pray at the Western Wall, Jerusalem's holiest site, before his controversial visit to Washington next week.

The Israeli prime minister will address a joint session of the U.S. Congress on Tuesday at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner. He most likely will speak out against a nuclear deal with Iran.

"My responsibility is to worry not only about the State of Israel, but also the future of the Jewish people, to stand up and raise our voice," he said Saturday.

Referring to the Nazi Holocaust, he said, "Eighty years ago, no one could raise their voice when there were plans to destroy us. Today, there is, and it is my obligation."

The United States and its P5+1 partners — Britain, China, France and Russia, who are fellow permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany — are looking to reach a deal with Iran to keep it from building a nuclear weapon.

Netanyahu said it would be a bad deal that would give the Iranians too many concessions and leave them with the ability to make a bomb. He said such a deal would endanger Israel's existence.

The Obama administration insists it will not let Iran build a bomb and says it is committed to Israel's security. But it is furious that Boehner, an Ohio Republican, invited the prime minister to address Congress without informing the White House first.

National security adviser Susan Rice said that with the invitation and its acceptance, Boehner and Netanyahu have "injected a degree of partisanship" into Israeli-U.S. relations, turning bilateral ties into a relationship between the Republicans and Netanyahu's Likud — two conservative parties. Some Democratic lawmakers plan to boycott the Netanyahu speech.

The P5+1 are facing a June 30 deadline for a deal that cuts Iran's uranium enrichment program in exchange for lifting sanctions that have greatly harmed the Iranian economy.

Iran insists it has no plans to build atomic weapons. It says its nuclear program is strictly for peaceful civilian purposes.

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