Benjamin Netanyahu focuses on threat of Iran as Knesset opens

McConnell: U.S.-Israel relationship still very strong
sot netanyahu mcconnell on israel iran_00012001


    McConnell: U.S.-Israel relationship still very strong


McConnell: U.S.-Israel relationship still very strong 01:58

Jerusalem (CNN)Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of the dangers a nuclear Iran would pose to Israel and to the region at the opening session of the 20th Knesset, just hours before the deadline for a deal. Netanyahu, who has lobbied against a nuclear deal with Iran for months, said, "The greatest threat to our security and to our future was and remains Iran's effort to arm itself with nuclear weapons."

The ceremonial opening session of the Knesset, where all 120 members are sworn in as official ministers of Knesset, coincides with the nuclear deal deadline. Netanyahu, in his first speech after the ceremony, touched briefly on domestic issues before focusing on the negotiations happening in Lausanne, Switzerland, between Iran and representatives of the United States, Britain, China, Russia, France and Germany.
"It seems that it will leave in Iran's possession underground installations, the nuclear reactor at Arak and advanced centrifuges, the same things that only a few months ago we were told -- and rightly so -- were not essential to a nuclear program designed for peaceful purposes," Netanyahu said. "Iran's breakout time for achieving fissile material for nuclear bombs will not be measured in years, as was said at the outset; in our assessment the time has been reduced to less than a year, probably much less."
Netanyahu also spoke about the threat a nuclear Iran would pose to the "moderate and responsible countries in the region," referring to Sunni countries like Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt.
    This week, Netanyahu has received a strong show of support from congressional Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio. McConnell met with Netanyahu on Sunday and promised him support in Congress, regardless of the outcome of negotiations.
    "The option if there's an agreement is a bill that we intend to vote on that enjoys bipartisan support to require that agreement come to Congress for approval. If there's no deal, then the view of this group, similar to your own, is that ratcheting up sanctions might be the best direction to take in the wake of a deal that does not come together," said McConnell.
    Boehner will meet with Netanyahu on Thursday. Beohner will also meet with Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon.
    Netanyahu has been working against the nuclear deal politically and diplomatically for months, culminating with a speech before the United States Congress on March 3. In the speech, Netanyahu stressed that all options are still on the table when it comes to Israel's response to a nuclear Iran. "This is why, as a prime minister of Israel, I can promise you one more thing: Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand," he said.