Discussions have continued surrounding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled speech to Congress two weeks before Israel’s general election in March.
US House of Representatives Speaker, Republican John Boehner extended the invitation last month for Netanyahu “to address Congress on the grave threats radical Islam and Iran pose to our security.” However, Boehner had not informed the White House in advance, which is considered a breach of protocol. Media reports suggest that Netanyahu’s address is viewed by the White House as collaboration with President Obama’s political opponents, who oppose his policy on Iran.
On Wednesday, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer met with seven Jewish Democrat legislators, who said they were unhappy at the invitation and its acceptance. According to Congressman Steve Israel, who hosted the meeting, all participants at the meeting agreed that Israel must not become a bipartisan political issue.
Yesterday, Democrat representatives John Lewis, GK Butterfield and Earl Blumenauer apparently confirmed that they would not attend Netanyahu’s address due to their concerns. Meanwhile, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, who is currently visiting Washington met with Minority House Leader Nancy Pelosi who according to a spokesperson “expressed her concern that casting a political apple of discord into the [US-Israel] relationship is not the best way forward.”
However, Netanyahu yesterday strongly defended his decision to address Congress. He said, “It’s my duty as the prime minister of Israel to warn about the danger of a nuclear agreement with Iran and to do everything I can to prevent it from coming to fruition before it’s too late.” Netanyahu added that current negotiations are a path “leading to Iran becoming a nuclear threshold state with international consent.” The Zionist Union issued a response, accusing Netanyahu of harming US-Israel relations, saying “Netanyahu has turned the Congress into a Likud committee convention.”
However, Senator John McCain is interviewed this morning in Israel Hayom and applauded Netanyahu’s decision, saying it is “vital that Netanyahu speak and explain that the US is on the way to a bad deal.”