John Boehner defends Netanyahu speech to Congress
Speaker of the House John Boehner listens to questions during a news conference (AFP)

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner on Thursday strongly challenged the assertion that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's upcoming speech to Congress about nuclear negotiations with Iran would be destructive to U.S.-Israeli relations.


"The president's national security advisor says it's destructive for the prime minister of Israel to address the United States Congress. I couldn't disagree more," Boehner said at his weekly news conference.

"The American people and both parties in Congress have always stood with Israel and nothing, and no one, could get in the way," Boehner said.

President Barack Obama and other Democrats have accused Netanyahu and Republicans of injecting partisan politics into the U.S.-Israel relationship since Boehner broke precedent by inviting the Israeli leader to address Congress without consulting the White House or Democratic lawmakers.

Netanyahu is due to join Winston Churchill on March 3 as the only international leader to have addressed a joint meeting of both the Senate and U.S. House of Representatives three times.

Several Democrats have said they will skip the speech. Some said they do not want a foreign leader weighing in on U.S. foreign affairs. Others said they feel it is inappropriate for Netanyahu to address the U.S. Congress just two weeks before Israeli elections.

Susan Rice, President Barack Obama's national security adviser, warned this week against allowing the U.S.-Israeli relationship to be reduced to a partisan political issue, saying it would be destructive.

Boehner defended the invitation, expressing doubts about the ongoing nuclear talks between Iran and world powers. "What is destructive in my view is making a bad deal that paves the way for a nuclear Iran. That's destructive," he said.

Boehner said it was important for the U.S. public to hear what Netanyahu has to say about the "grave threats" Israel faces. "That is why the prime minister is coming, and I'm glad that most of my colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, will be there," he said.

The Obama administration has urged patience in allowing the United States and other nations to continue talks aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear energy capacity.

(Editing by Susan Heavey)