Democrats may boycott Netanyahu speech... or not

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

netanyahu boehner

This really isn’t news. I mean they are Democrats. And boycotting American allies is just how they roll. Politico does the stenography job for the White House in a story titled Democrats might skip Benjamin Netanyahu speech


Dozens of House Democrats are privately threatening to skip the March 3 address, according to lawmakers and aides, in what’s become the lowest point of a relationship between the Israeli prime minister and President Barack Obama that’s never been good.

Democrats have had to balance publicly supporting Israel with backing Obama, who’s trying to close a deal with Iran to curb its nuclear programs over vehement opposition from Netanyahu, who has expressed concerns that the U.S. president is being naive. Negotiations are facing a deadline at the end of March for a political framework.

The word that is key to the story is “privately.” What do the people quoted on the record say?

[mc_name name=’Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’C001068′ ] (D-Tenn.) said he’s considered not going and has discussed it with his colleagues.

[mc_name name=’Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’Y000062′ ] (D-Ky.) said in an interview he “hadn’t thought about” whether he will go or not.

House Minority Leader [mc_name name=’Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’P000197′ ] (D-Calif.), who last week criticized Boehner for inviting Netanyahu without first informing the White House, would go, said her spokesman Drew Hammill — though he hedged, holding out the possibility that the speech may yet be canceled.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he’ll attend. [mc_name name=’Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’E000179′ ] (D-N.Y.), the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Relations Committee, also said he’ll be there.

Meanwhile, Republican Reps. [mc_name name=’Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’F000448′ ] of Arizona, [mc_name name=’Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’L000567′ ] of New Jersey and Lee Zeldin of New York — who’s the only Jewish Republican in Congress — circulated a letter of their own among members Tuesday, backing Boehner’s invitation.


To review the bidding, it looks like no one has said they will boycott the event. The only reason Politico did this story was to please the White House.

What is afoot here is that the Obama White House has a major sad going because Benjamin Netanyahu refused to change his name to “Vidkun Quisling” and go along with Obama’s misguided strategy of allowing the Iranians to become a nuclear power in the hope that this will make them act more reasonable. Since the invitation has been extended to Netanyahu the White House has gone to unprecedented lengths to trash the Israeli ambassador:

The Obama administration, after days of mounting tension, signaled on Wednesday how angry it is with Israel that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted Republican leaders’ invitation to address Congress on Iran without consulting the White House.

The outrage the episode has incited within President Obama’s inner circle became clear in unusually sharp criticism by a senior administration official who said that the Israeli ambassador, Ron Dermer, who helped orchestrate the invitation, had repeatedly placed Mr. Netanyahu’s political fortunes above the relationship between Israel and the United States.

The official who made the comments to The New York Times would not be named, and the White House declined to comment. The remarks were the latest fallout after Mr. Dermer, without the White House’s knowledge, worked with House Speaker John A. Boehner to arrange the speech, which is scheduled for March.


The White House has also enlisted the aid of J Street to derail the speech:

Though J Street, the left-leaning Israel advocacy group, has not been telling members of Congress to skip the speech, it has sent two mass emails to members promoting a letter written by Cohen and [mc_name name=’Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’E000288′ ] (D-Minn.) urging Boehner to reschedule the speech until after the Israeli elections.

“Momentum is on our side — and it’s growing,” J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami wrote in an email asking members to get their representatives to sign the Cohen-Ellison letter. “Make it clear that Netanyahu’s speech shouldn’t go forward as planned.”

(Full disclosure, I know Jeremy Ben Ami, he was an apparatchik in the 1992 Clinton White House, and I would reflexively oppose anything he is in favor of.)

And Politico also seems to be an ally of the White House. This paragraph, in particular, stuck out:

But that reading of Obama seems not to have been updated since November, when Obama’s own poll numbers started moving up again, and — though Netanyahu’s Likud Party is still leading in Israeli polls — miscalculated the backlash back in Israel from putting his relationship with the American president on the line.

Likud is not “still leading,” Likud is blowing the doors off the competition and is on track to gain a substantial number of seats. Via Ha’aretz, which is not a Likud fan:


Polls see Likud gathering steam; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu widening his lead over his main rival, Isaac Herzog; the three ultra-Orthodox parties stabilizing at about 18 seats, similar to what they had in the previous Knesset; and the centrist parties have collectively lost four seats.

Rather than a backlash, it looks like that Netanyahu’s trip is popular in Israel and Obama’s opposition — in addition to his blatant meddling in the ongoing Israel election — is backfiring:

And indeed the polls in Israel have moved in Netanyahu’s direction since the Obama attacks began. Two weeks ago, the opposition Zionist Union was leading by three seats in the Knesset. Last week, its lead had shrunk to two. Now, Likud has pulled ahead by one seat, and the Jerusalem Post reports “The poll found that the percentage of respondents who want Netanyahu to remain prime minister rose from 38% last week to 44%, tying the highest-ever result.”

It is incredible that Politico could have made such a glaring omission from their story.

In the end, Democrats will show up for the Netanyahu speech because even the dimmest bulb among them can see what Obama is doing is simply petulant and silly.



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