U.S. Sen. Angus King complimented the tone of the speech Tuesday by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but cautioned against criticizing a nuclear deal between the United States and Iran before it has been finalized.

Speaking shortly after Netanyahu addressed Congress, Maine’s independent senator said Netanyahu’s tone was less combative than he expected.

“I think he did a good job acknowledging the controversy leading up to this speech and he went out of his way to compliment the president, which was important,” King said by telephone. “The two problems I had were: He kept talking about a deal that isn’t done yet. It’s a little premature to criticize a deal that may or may not really happen.

“And he didn’t answer the question of, if we don’t make a deal, what happens next?”

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, was more supportive of Netanyahu’s position.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu delivered a powerful speech that sets forth the serious threat that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose not only to Israel and to the stability of the Middle East, but to our country as well. It is important that our country hear from the leader of America’s closest and only fully democratic ally in the Middle East on this issue,” she said in a statement. “I hope that the Obama administration will negotiate an agreement that removes the threat of Iran being able to produce a nuclear weapon in less than a year. Iran already is in violation of United Nations resolutions prohibiting the country from enriching uranium.”


There was heavy criticism of Netanyahu’s appearance long before he addressed Congress. He was invited by House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, without consulting Democrats or the White House. Several House and Senate Democrats boycotted the speech in protest.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Maine Democrat, was among those who boycotted.

“I took the opportunity to watch Mr. Netanyahu’s speech to Congress today from my office with a group of constituents from Maine, and appreciated hearing the prime minister’s passionate point of view,” she said in a statement. “While I continue to support a strong U.S.-Israeli relationship, I don’t believe his speech happened at the right time or under the right conditions. It should not have happened so close to Israeli elections nor without the president’s consent. But my biggest concern is that the speech undermines the ongoing work of our president and his administration to reach a deal with Iran that keeps them from obtaining nuclear capability.”

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Maine Republican in his first term, released a statement after Netanyahu’s speech but said little about its substance.

“I’m honored and proud to have joined my colleagues in welcoming Prime Minister Netanyahu to our House chamber. I believe that this reception presented a great opportunity for Americans to extend our support to one of our strongest allies, especially given the intense geopolitical climate of the Middle East today,” Poliquin said in a statement. “I will continue to stand with Israel, who has been a close friend and ally to the United States in helping to create peace and stability in the Middle East. I’m hopeful that the White House listens to Prime Minister Netanyahu and works to prevent a nuclear Iran.”

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: @PPHEricRussell

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