Dems may boycott Netanyahu speech

Dozens of House Democrats are contemplating boycotting the speech by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu next month before a joint session of Congress, citing the "breach" of protocol when Speaker of the House John Boehner invited the Israeli PM without clearing it with the White House first.

Netanyahu has come under fire back home and from some within the American Jewish community for accepting the invitation.  But with Iran making noises about a deal with the West on their nuclear program being close, Netanyahu – who thinks Obama weak and naive about Iran – feels compelled to put his political hide on the line in order to warn Congress and the American people of the Iranian threat.

Politico:

The president and his aides won’t tell Democrats to skip the speech. But they aren’t telling Democrats to go, either.

“We defer to Democratic members if they’d like to attend or not,” a White House aide said Tuesday.

Biden’s office wouldn’t comment on the decision-making process about attending the speech. As the president of the Senate, he usually takes a seat beside Boehner on the podium behind the lecturn for addresses by foreign leaders.

Though some may abandon the threat, as of Tuesday, many Democrats on the Hill — including several Jewish members — said they’re likely to leave the prime minister looking at some empty seats.

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) said he’s considered not going and has discussed it with his colleagues.

“I just don’t know if it’s the proper response or not,” he said. “But I just think it’s a mistake and it might be a proper protest. But I haven’t made that definite decision.”

Cohen added, “With his election being so soon, and with the negotiations we have going on with Iran, he’s put himself in a political situation here that’s probably adverse to the best interest of Israel.”

Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) said in an interview he “hadn’t thought about” whether he will go or not.

“I don’t even know what else is on my schedule,” he said. “It wouldn’t be an official boycott. I wouldn’t announce that I wasn’t going. But I don’t really blame Netanyahu — although I’m not a fan of Netanyahu — but I don’t blame him for coming.”

Ever since the uproar over the invitation first exploded two weeks ago, the Israelis have worked to try to quash any question of partisan maneuvering. On Tuesday, an Israeli official said they’re hoping the situation will be resolved by the time Netanyahu arrives in Washington.

No one would be more pleased than President Obama if Democrats were to take a hike and not attend the speech.  He fears Bibi's powers of persuasion, which might tip the balance on a new Iran sanctions bill, seeing it pass with a veto-proof majority.  Iran has been skirting the sanctions on its oil industry that are still in place, so closing a few loopholes would remind the Islamic Republic that the U.S. could act even while negotiating.

Netanyahu's act of political courage in coming to Washington to speak to the American people in a last-ditch attempt to prevent the Iranians from getting the capability to build an atomic weapon may fall on deaf ears at the White House, but there are probably enough members of Congress who will agree with him and will make his trip worthwhile.

Dozens of House Democrats are contemplating boycotting the speech by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu next month before a joint session of Congress, citing the "breach" of protocol when Speaker of the House John Boehner invited the Israeli PM without clearing it with the White House first.

Netanyahu has come under fire back home and from some within the American Jewish community for accepting the invitation.  But with Iran making noises about a deal with the West on their nuclear program being close, Netanyahu – who thinks Obama weak and naive about Iran – feels compelled to put his political hide on the line in order to warn Congress and the American people of the Iranian threat.

Politico:

The president and his aides won’t tell Democrats to skip the speech. But they aren’t telling Democrats to go, either.

“We defer to Democratic members if they’d like to attend or not,” a White House aide said Tuesday.

Biden’s office wouldn’t comment on the decision-making process about attending the speech. As the president of the Senate, he usually takes a seat beside Boehner on the podium behind the lecturn for addresses by foreign leaders.

Though some may abandon the threat, as of Tuesday, many Democrats on the Hill — including several Jewish members — said they’re likely to leave the prime minister looking at some empty seats.

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) said he’s considered not going and has discussed it with his colleagues.

“I just don’t know if it’s the proper response or not,” he said. “But I just think it’s a mistake and it might be a proper protest. But I haven’t made that definite decision.”

Cohen added, “With his election being so soon, and with the negotiations we have going on with Iran, he’s put himself in a political situation here that’s probably adverse to the best interest of Israel.”

Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) said in an interview he “hadn’t thought about” whether he will go or not.

“I don’t even know what else is on my schedule,” he said. “It wouldn’t be an official boycott. I wouldn’t announce that I wasn’t going. But I don’t really blame Netanyahu — although I’m not a fan of Netanyahu — but I don’t blame him for coming.”

Ever since the uproar over the invitation first exploded two weeks ago, the Israelis have worked to try to quash any question of partisan maneuvering. On Tuesday, an Israeli official said they’re hoping the situation will be resolved by the time Netanyahu arrives in Washington.

No one would be more pleased than President Obama if Democrats were to take a hike and not attend the speech.  He fears Bibi's powers of persuasion, which might tip the balance on a new Iran sanctions bill, seeing it pass with a veto-proof majority.  Iran has been skirting the sanctions on its oil industry that are still in place, so closing a few loopholes would remind the Islamic Republic that the U.S. could act even while negotiating.

Netanyahu's act of political courage in coming to Washington to speak to the American people in a last-ditch attempt to prevent the Iranians from getting the capability to build an atomic weapon may fall on deaf ears at the White House, but there are probably enough members of Congress who will agree with him and will make his trip worthwhile.