Kerry contradicts Rice: Netanyahu is 'welcome to speak' in US

Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryAn all-female ticket? Not in 2016 GOP senator calls for China to crack down on illegal opioid Obamas to live in home of former Clinton press secretary: report MORE on Sunday contradicted National Security Adviser Susan Rice, saying that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is "welcome to speak" in the U.S.

ADVERTISEMENT
“The prime minister of Israel is welcome to speak in the United States, obviously,” Kerry said on ABC’s "This Week."

“We have a closer relationship with Israel right now in terms of security than at any time in history,” he added

Kerry's remarks come just days before Netanyahu is scheduled to deliver a controversial address to a joint session of Congress that has sparked tensions between President Obama’s administration and Netanyahu. The world leader will address the Iranian nuclear threat while on Capitol Hill.  

National Security Adviser Susan Rice called the speech “destructive” to U.S.-Israel relations last week. More than two-dozen Democrats are also boycotting Netanyahu’s address, according to a whip list compiled by The Hill.

Kerry emphasized common ground between Jerusalem and Washington, D.C., on Sunday. He also, however, reiterated the Obama administration’s discomfort with Netanyahu’s appearance.

“We are not — you know, we don’t want to see this turned into some great political football,” Kerry said. “Obviously, it was odd, if not unique, that we learned of it from the Speaker of the House and the administration was not included in this process.

Controversy first arose when Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) invited Netanyahu to speak without notifying the White House first.

“We want to recognize the main goal here is to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon,” Kerry said on Sunday. “And on that, Israel and the United States agree.”

Netanyahu arrives in Washington today. On Monday, he will speak at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference. President Obama will not attend the talk, nor will Kerry or Vice President Biden.

After addressing Congress on Tuesday, Netanyahu will also meet Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) privately that afternoon.