US Senator Dianne Feinstein said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's claim that he represents all Jews is "arrogant." Feinstein, a senior Jewish senator was referencing comments by Netanyahu before he took off for the US, and said that he does not speak for her.
Netanyahu's speech to Congress has sparked outrage both in Israel and the US, where critics have accused him of using the speech to bolster his own political chances in the March 17 Knesset elections.
“My responsibility is to worry not only about the State of Israel, but also the future of the Jewish people,” Netanyahu said at the Western Wall on the eve of his flight. "I feel I am the representative of all Israel, even those who disagree with me. I feel a deep concern for the fate of Israel. I will do everything to guarantee our future," Netanyahu said before talking off in reference to the looming deal with Iran.
Senator Feinstein whose offer to meet Netanyahu together with a Republican senator in a bid to defuse tensions over the speech was rejected, openly denounced the claim.
"He doesn’t speak for me on this," the California Democratic senator told CNN's State of the Union Sunday. "I think it’s a rather arrogant statement. I think the Jewish community is like any other community. There are different points of view. I think that arrogance does not befit, Israel, candidly."
Prominent members of the US Jewish community have urged Netanyahu to delay the speech until after the elections, and dozens of Democratic politicians will be missing when Netanyahu speaks Tuesday, among them Vice President Joe Biden, whose absence behind the prime minister as he speaks will be most conspicuous.
"I intend to go, and I’ll listen respectfully," Feinstein said. "I don’t intend to jump up and down."
The speech also caused controversy over the fact that the White House was apparently deliberately kept in the dark about the invitation to the prime minister, issued by Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner.
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Other lawmakers who will skip the address include Senators Bernie Sanders, Patrick Leahy and Tim Kaine, and Representatives Barbara Lee, Mark Pocan and Jan Schakowsky.
The speech will have a five-minute delay in transmission in Israel, to allow any comments perceived by the Central Elections Committee as electioneering to be cut out.
Meanwhile, a Likud lawmaker expressed the hope Sunday that the speech would have a positive impact for the party in the elections.
"If the speech manages to define the diplomatic and defense agenda," he said, "it will bring us seats and improve the Likud's status. It all now depends on the Likud and whether Netanyahu will rise to the occasion or not. We hope that the speech will bring us seats."
Itamar Eichner contributed to this report