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March 4, 2015

Israeli Prime Minister’s speech to U.S. Congress deepens political divides


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed lawmakers in the U.S. Congress this week in a speech that criticized negotiations with Iran and urged tighter restrictions.

The Speaker of the House, Republican John Boehner of Ohio, had invited Netanyahu to speak before Congress without consulting the White House — an unusual move. Over 50 Democrats boycotted the address, saying the speech was politically motivated.

Netanyahu urged the U.S. to ditch its current strategy. “We’ll face a much more dangerous Iran, a Middle East littered with nuclear bombs and a countdown to a potential nuclear nightmare,” he said.

President Barack Obama did not meet with the prime minister or attend the speech, which he criticized as containing “nothing new.”

The U.S. and other nations are currently negotiating a deal with Iran that would limit its ability to produce nuclear weapons. A group of six nations wants to increase inspections and restrict the number of nuclear centrifuges within Iran, as well as remove much of the existing uranium within the country.

Currently, Iran has 20,000 centrifuges, facilities that can produce enriched uranium that could be used for a nuclear bomb. The U.S. and other negotiating nations say that restrictions on those facilities could make it less likely that Iran would produce a nuclear weapon.

Iran has said that it wants to be able to produce nuclear energy for electricity and medical uses. It also aims to end the sanctions that have prevented it from participating in global markets.

Nations participating in the negotiations are aiming for a final agreement by the end of March, with a final version slated for June.

Warm up questions
  1. Where is Iran?
  2. What are nuclear weapons and how could they be used?
Critical thinking questions
  1. Why does the U.S. care about limiting Iran’s ability to create nuclear weapons? How could this issue affect many different countries worldwide?
  2. How have nuclear weapons been controversial at other points in history?
  3. What is the relationship between Iran and Israel? What about the relationship between the U.S. and Israel? How might these factors have affected the speech that Netanyahu gave to Congress?Why do you think House Speaker John Boehner invited Netanyahu? What would you have done if you were a Senator from your state?
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