Indiana lawmakers react to Netanyahu’s warning to Congress

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (March 3, 2015)-- Indiana lawmakers are reacting to Tuesday’s speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who addressed a joint session of Congress, warning against a nuclear deal against Iran.

Inside the House chamber, Netanyahu was greeted with great fanfare.

“Israel is one of our most important allies,” Rep. Luke Messer (R-Indiana) said in a recent interview. “I’m a big fan of Benjamin Netanyahu and his leadership.”

But Israel’s leader stood atop an extraordinary crossroads both over the substance of his speech and the controversy it has generated.

“I want to thank you all for being here today,” he said. “I deeply regret that some perceive my being here as political. That was never my intention.”

The Obama administration, and several other world leaders, are negotiating a proposal aimed at limiting Iran’s ability to make a nuclear weapon. Shortly after the speech Obama said the address contained “nothing new.”

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) invited Netanyahu to speak without first consulting the White House.

More than 50 Democrats skipped the speech, including Rep. Andre Carson (D-Indiana).

“I just think the timing of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address to Congress just days before the Israeli elections was inappropriate,” Carson said.

Indiana’s Jewish community is watching the tension closely.

Lindsey Mintz and David Sklar, with the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council, were in Washington Tuesday meeting with Indiana lawmakers after Netanyahu’s speech.

“When it comes to the policy, we know that our members of Congress are going to be looking at this very carefully,” Mintz said. “And even if they are not personally in attendance, obviously we have encouraged them to do that, but we also respect if they’ve made a decision not to.”

Sklar said they would not only address the speech but other pressing issues to Central Indiana.

“I think the Jewish community is particularly concerned about rising anti-Semitism both around the world, especially in Europe as well as the United States,” he said.

What all lawmakers worked to convey is the continued partnership between the U.S. and Israel, despite what some of the politics showed.

“The nature of a good relationship and a friendship is that you’re going to have some disagreements,” Carson said.

The debate in the coming weeks will be one of policy and ideology.

“I think it’s critical we support Israel,” Messer said. “And I frankly think it’s critical we make sure Iran does not have a nuclear bomb.”

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