Netanyahu: Iran poses world's 'greatest danger'
EDITOR'S NOTE: Baptist Press will carry an expanded story on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to the United States tomorrow (March 4).
WASHINGTON (BP) -- Militant Islamists with nuclear weapons would be the likely result of an agreement the United States may sign with Iran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a joint meeting of Congress March 3.
Approximately 50 House and Senate Democrats did not attend Netanyahu's address, The New York Times reported. Some protested House Speaker John Boehner's invitation of the Israeli leader without consulting President Obama, who also was not in attendance. Media reports leading up to the speech highlighted ongoing tension between the two heads of state. Some Democrats saw the address as a political stunt to bolster Netanyahu's reelection campaign two weeks prior to the Israeli vote.
Netanyahu opened his speech by praising Obama's support for Israel and saying, "I deeply regret that some perceive my being here as political. That was never my intention."
A "profound obligation" to oppose Iran's quest for nuclear weapons motivated his speech, Netanyahu said, noting that, driven by radical Islam, Iran seeks to annihilate Israel and control its Arab neighbors. Iran also persecutes Christians, homosexuals and journalists, he said.
The Iranian regime fights terrorists in Iraq and Syria only because it doesn't want ISIS to usurp Iran's leading role in the advance of militant Islam, Netanyahu said.
"The difference is that ISIS is armed with butcher knives, captured weapons and YouTube," Netanyahu said, "whereas Iran could soon be armed with intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear bombs."
The nuclear deal being considered by Iran, the U.S. and five other nations would allow Iran to keep around 6,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges while limiting development of more efficient centrifuges. It also would limit stockpiles of material that could be developed into nuclear weapons and subject Iran's nuclear facilities to inspection, the Washington Post reported. The agreement likely would last 10-15 years, and a March 24 deadline has been set for establishing the framework of a final accord.
Having no agreement would be preferable, Netanyahu told Congress, because the proposed accord "would all but guarantee" that Iran obtains nuclear weapons -- "lots of them."
Two concessions, Netanyahu said, make the deal unreasonable: allowing Iran to maintain a "vast nuclear infrastructure" and permitting "virtually all" restrictions on Iran's nuclear program to expire in a decade.
The deal would not require "a single nuclear facility" to be demolished and would not sufficiently empower inspectors to halt illegitimate weapons development, Netanyahu said. Additionally, Iran could amass a "full arsenal" of nuclear weapons legitimately after the accord expires.
It is naïve to believe this agreement would inspire Iran to decrease its aggression toward Israel or its Arab neighbors, Netanyahu said. A "much better deal" would:
-- Require Iran to cease aggression toward neighbor states.
-- Demand that Iran stop supporting terrorism around the world.
-- Require that Iran stop threatening to annihilate Israel.
"Iran's regime is as radical as ever," Netanyahu said. "... The ideology of Iran's revolutionary regime is deeply rooted in militant Islam, and that's why this regime will always be an enemy of America."
In related news, former Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright attended a speech Netanyahu delivered in Washington March 2 to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's annual policy conference. Wright told Baptist Press that Christians should support Israel because it is the "only true democracy in the Middle East" and because the Bible calls followers to Jesus to stand with the Jewish people.
"We're called biblically to be supporters of Israel and of the Jews," said Wright, pastor of the Atlanta-area Johnson Ferry Baptist Church. "That does not mean that we also don't point out that Christ died for all mankind on the cross, that God loves all mankind and that Christ died on the cross for Muslim Arabs just like He died for Israeli Jews.
"At the same time, God's Word is very clear in the Old Testament in Genesis 12 with Abraham that we ought to be supportive of Israel," Wright said. "And Romans 9-11, but especially chapter 11, is very important regarding the unique role Israel has and God's hope for Israel."
Christians should pray for the salvation of Jews as well as Muslim Arabs, including terrorists, Wright said. He urged Christians to contact their elected representatives and request that they support Israel.