There was “nothing new” in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of Congress, President Obama told reporters Tuesday in an 11-minute rebuttal from the Oval Office.

While the president said he missed the speech due to a call with European leaders, he criticized the address as lacking a "viable alternative" to his pursuit of a nuclear accord with Iran.

"I did have a chance to take a look at the transcript, and as far as I can tell, there was nothing new," Obama said.

"The prime minister appropriately pointed out that the bond between the United States of America is unbreakable, and on that point, I thoroughly agree," he said.

But he said that “the prime minister didn't offer any viable alternatives” to diplomacy on the “core issue” of stopping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.


"Keep in mind that when we came to the interim deal, Prime Minister Netanyahu made almost the precise same speech about how dangerous that deal was going to be," Obama said. "And yet over a year later, even Israeli intelligence officers and in some members of the Israeli government have acknowledged that, in fact, it has kept Iran from further pursuing a nuclear program."

Netanyahu used his speech before a joint meeting of Congress to slam the administration's talks with Iran, warning a deal would pave the way for the construction of a nuclear bomb.

“The greatest danger facing our world is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said. “We can’t let that happen.”

The Israeli leader tried to defuse the political tensions caused by his speech. He took a moment at the start of his address to welcome Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Connected Commerce Council - Biden faces reporters as his agenda teeters Biden hits one-year mark in dire straits 'All or nothing' won't bolster American democracy: Reform the filibuster and Electoral Count Act MORE (D-Nev.), who was sidelined earlier this year by an injury to his face and ribs.

More than 50 Democrats skipped the speech, partly in protest of Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerDemocrats eager to fill power vacuum after Pelosi exit Stopping the next insurrection Biden, lawmakers mourn Harry Reid MORE's (R-Ohio) decision to invite Netanyahu without notifying the White House.

Senior administration officials, including Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryBiden's second-ranking climate diplomat stepping down A presidential candidate pledge can right the wrongs of an infamous day Equilibrium/Sustainability — Dam failures cap a year of disasters MORE, have declined to meet with Netanyahu this week because his visit is coming just two weeks before the Israeli elections.

Asked about BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerDemocrats eager to fill power vacuum after Pelosi exit Stopping the next insurrection Biden, lawmakers mourn Harry Reid MORE's breach in protocol Tuesday, Obama stressed that Congress is not in charge of foreign policy.

"We have a system of government in which foreign policy runs through the executive branch and the president, not through other channels."

The international talks with Iran have a self-imposed, end-of-March deadline. The president said this week that Iran will have to agree to at least a 10-year freeze of their nuclear program for a deal to be reached, and reiterated Tuesday he will not agree to a "bad deal."

"The bottom line is this: We don't yet have a deal. It may be that Iran cannot say yes to a good deal. I have repeatedly said that I would rather have no deal than a bad deal, but if we are successful in negotiating, then in fact this will be the best deal possible to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Nothing else comes close."

— Updated at 2:53 p.m.