Iowans weigh in on Netanyahu speech - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowans weigh in on Netanyahu speech

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CORALVILLE (KWWL) - As Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu is a representative of Israel, where the Jewish religion began. But at the Agudas Achim Congregation in Coralville, the rabbi says Netanyahu doesn't speak for all Jews.

"He represents only a small wing of the Israeli public in terms of his criticisms of the negotiations with Iran," said Rabbi Jeff Portman. "He does not speak for all Jews, no one can speak for all Jews. My gosh."

Portman believes that Netanyahu's speech was ill-timed. But just as Netanyahu doesn't speak for the entire Jewish population, the rabbi doesn't speak for his entire congregation.

"I'm sure lots of people disagree with me and lots of people agree with me," said Portman.

Netanyahu came to the United States to speak before a joint session of Congress -- hoping to see an end to nuclear weapon negotiations between the United States and Iran, which Netanyahu believes would be bad for Israel.

"Because America and Israel, we share a common destiny," said Netanyahu in his speech. "A destiny of promised lands that offer freedom and hope."

Several Democrats, including Dave Loebsack from Iowa's Second Congressional District, skipped the speech. The invitation came from House Speaker John Boehner, not President Obama.

"There's a lot of conflict between what Republicans want," said Chris Larimer, KWWL Political Analyst. "They want a more aggressive foreign policy, particularly toward Iran. President Obama has come out repeatedly talking about the importance of negotiation."

Though Loebsack did not  attend the speech, he watched on TV and released the following statement afterward:

“The strategic importance between Israel and the United States is as important as ever as we work towards the commonly held goal of ensuring Iran does not achieve nuclear weapons capability. Since being founded in 1948, Israel has been and remains one of our closest allies and the relationship has long been a bipartisan one. But after Speaker Boehner injected partisan politics into the debate, this speech became nothing more than a spectacle where attendance at the speech mattered more than what was actually said. It is my hope that we can now move beyond this speech and continue to move towards a deal with Iran that has strict verification mechanisms to ensure Iran does not get nuclear weapons capabilities."

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley did attend the speech and released his own statement:

“The speech was moving and forceful. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's candid assessment of the danger of a nuclear weapons-capable Iran needed to be said. The assessment gave Congress and the American people the opportunity to hear directly from the leader of a close ally on the latest security threats from a volatile Middle East. Complacency is not the answer. Support for Israel means fostering democracy in the Middle East. It means maintaining an important strategic partnership in a critical part of the world. And it means ensuring Israel's inherent right to self-defense.”

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