Paul Steinhauser: NH congressional delegation reacts to Netanyahu speech
CONCORD - "Powerful, persuasive, and correct."
That's how Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte reacted to Tuesday's address by Benjamin Netanyahu in front of Congress. The Israeli prime minister receiving a standing ovation after telling Iran to "stop threatening my country Israel, the one and only Jewish state."
There was a very different reaction from Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who said "I do not agree with everything that was said."
Netanyahu also challenged President Barack Obama to pull back from a proposed deal to freeze Iran's nuclear program, calling it bad deal.
"It doesn't block Iran's path to a bomb, it paves Iran's path to a bomb."
A couple of hours after the Israeli prime minister's address to Congress, the President went before cameras to defend the deal.
"If we're successful in negotiating, then in fact this will be the best deal possibly to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. nothing else comes close," Obama said.
House Speaker John Boehner invited Netanyahu to speak in front of Congress, without asking the White House. And the address came just two weeks before the Israeli prime minister's up for re-election back home. Nearly 60 congressional Democrats boycotted the speech.
"I know that my speech has been the subject of much controversy. I deeply regret that some perceive my being here as political," Netanyahu said.
All four members of New Hampshire's congressional delegation watched the speech in person in the House chamber.
An hour before Netanyahu's address, Ayotte spoke on the floor of the Senate.
"A good agreement is a blessing. a bad agreement is a nightmare. and we have to hear from the prime minister of Israel and I look forward to hearing what he has to say about what a good agreement looks like," she said.
After the speech, she praised Netanyahu, saying "he articulately underscored the threat posed if Iran, the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism, acquires the world's most destructive weapon. If that happens, it would present a grave threat to both Israel and the United States."
And Ayotte criticized the proposed deal with Iran, adding that "the agreement the Obama administration is pursuing is a bad deal that would allow Iran to continue its acts of regional terrorism and simply delay-and not dismantle-its nuclear weapons program."
GOP Rep. Frank Guinta also praised the speech.
"Israel is our strongest and most reliable ally in the Middle East; and, they deserve no less than the 100% backing of the United States of America. At a time when terrorism threatens the national security of the U.S., the stability of the Middle East, and the rest of world, it is imperative that the United States and Israel come together to protect the free world from terrorism. I stand with Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu," wrote Guinta, who represents the state's 1st congressional district.
Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster was more measured.
"While I had concerns with the process by which Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech was scheduled, Israel is one of our most important allies and the relationship between our two countries must always remain above partisan politics. I appreciated the opportunity to hear the Prime Minister's speech, and I will continue to work together with both parties to safeguard Israel's security. The President must consult closely with Congress on any potential nuclear agreement with Iran, and I look forward to partnering with my colleagues to ensure that the safety and best interests of both the United States and Israel are protected," wrote Kuster, who represents the state's 2nd congressional district.
Shaheen didn't snub Netanyahu. In an op-ed Sunday in the Concord Monitor she explained her decision to attend the address, even though many other Democrats were skipping the speech.
"While I appreciate my colleagues' concerns - and I agree with many of them - America's friendship with the state of Israel transcends the manner in which the invitation to speak was extended. Our friendship is bigger and stronger than any individual leaders or their personal relationships," Shaheen wrote.
Following Tuesday's address by Netanyahu, Shaheen put out a statement saying "as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I look forward to continuing to work with our Israeli partners toward our shared goals in the Middle East."