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National security adviser Susan Rice denounced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's upcoming address to a joint meeting of Congress, calling it "destructive" to the relationship between the United States and Israel.
Rice, appearing on "Charlie Rose," said that Netanyahu's decision to accept the invitation of House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) to offer critical views of a potential nuclear deal with Iran shortly before the Israeli elections has "injected a degree of partisanship, which is not only unfortunate. I think it's destructive of the fabric of the relationship." Netanyahu is scheduled to speak March 3; the Israeli elections are March 17.
"It's always been bipartisan. We need to keep it that way. We want it that way. I think Israel wants it that way. The American people want it that way. And when it becomes injected or infused with politics, that's a problem," Rice said Tuesday, using the strongest language yet from an Obama administration official regarding a visit that has rankled both sides and strained ties between the countries.
Netanyahu on Wednesday brushed off mounting criticism from Washington.
"I respect the White House and the president of the United States, but on such a fateful matter, that can determine whether or not we survive, I must do everything to prevent such a great danger for Israel," Netanyahu said in a speech before members of his Likud Party on Wednesday.
Netanyahu told his audience the Obama administration and the other world leaders negotiating with Iran no longer are willing to press the Islamic republic to surrender its nuclear ambitions.
"From the agreement that is forming it appears that they have given up on that commitment and are accepting that Iran will gradually, within a few years, develop capabilities to produce material for many nuclear weapons. They might accept this, but I am not willing to accept this," Netanyahu said.
When asked if she believes that Netanyahu is coming to the United States to influence the Israeli election, Rice said that she is "not going to ascribe motives to the prime minister."
"We want the relationship between the United States and Israel to be unquestionably strong, immutable, regardless of political seasons in either country, regardless of which party may be in charge in either country. We've worked very hard to have that, and we will work very hard to maintain that," she said.
President Obama has said that he will not meet with Netanyahu while he is in Washington, and Vice President Biden will be traveling abroad. High-ranking Democrats have said they will boycott the speech. Netanyahu has declined a meeting with Democratic lawmakers, writing in a letter that it "could compound the misperception of partisanship regarding my upcoming visit."
Obama has said that he would veto a bipartisan bill that would impose additional sanctions on Iran. The move, Obama said, would undermine talks over the nation's nuclear program and risk setting up a military confrontation.
Netanyahu wrote in a series of tweets and in a statement earlier this month that he wants to address Congress because it may have "an important role" in an Iranian nuclear deal.
Rice touched on a number of other issues in the wide-ranging interview. When asked if the United States should lift sanctions on Iran, Rice said the Iranians will not be able to "convince anybody on day one" that they have stopped enriching uranium. Instead, they will have to prove over time that they are holding up their end of a deal. Rice said that when the interim deal was entered into last year, there were questions over whether the Iranians would comply.
"They have enabled us to validate that they have, in fact, taken all the steps that they committed to take and that they're in full compliance. That model will need to be sustained in any comprehensive agreement," she said.
The United States and allies fear that Iran's uranium enrichment program could eventually lead to development of nuclear weapons. Iran says it only seeks to make nuclear fuel for energy-producing reactors and medical applications.
When asked on "Charlie Rose" if she takes Russian President Vladimir Putin's word that he wants fighting to end in Ukraine, Rice said, "How dumb do I look? No. In all seriousness, no. One cannot accept Vladimir Putin at his word because his actions have belied his words repeatedly, particularly in the context of Ukraine."
Appearing on ABC's "The View" Wednesday, Rice said the Islamic State has "completely bastardized the religion" of Islam, are "terrorists" and are "using violence for completely unacceptable ends."
Rice was asked how she handles the stress of her job and whether she sleeps.
"I actually sleep quite well," she said, adding that she exercises and has the support of family and friends, including two young children who "keep me honest."
William Booth contributed reporting from Jerusalem.