Netanyahu to USA to discuss Iran

Leading Republican politician John Boehner has invited Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu to Washington to address Congress next month on the subject of Iran’s nuclear program, “Haaretz” writes today.

The invitation by the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives seems to be an attempt to score points for Netanyahu among Israeli voters as well as to challenge U.S. President Barack Obama on the highly contested Iranian Issue.

If Netanyahu accepts the invitation to speak on February 11, this would be his third address to Congress, the paper writes.

Boehner said in a statement that Netanyahu “is a great friend of our country, and this invitation carries with it unwavering commitment to the security and well-bieng of his people. In this time of challenge, I am asking the prime minister to address Congress on the grave threats radical Islam and Iran pose to our security and way of life. Americans and Israelis have always stood together in shared cause and common ideals, and now we must rise to the moment again.”

A large group of congressmen and senetors, mostly from the Republican Party, are pushing for legislation that would impose new sanctions on Iran, even as Tehran is in negotiations with the world powers in an attempt to reach a settlement. Obama said in his State of the Union address Tuesday that if such legislation is passed by Congress, he would veto it.

“Two words: ‘Hell no!’…. We’re going to to do no such thing,” the speaker said.

Boehner told a private meeting of Republican lawmakers that Congress would move ahead on new penalties despite Obama’s warning.

“You may have seen that on Friday the president warned us not to move ahead with sanctions on Iran, a state sponsor of terror,” Boehner told colleagues. “His exact message to us was:’Hold your fire,’ He expects us to stand idly by and do nothing while he cuts a bad deal with Iran.

“Two words: ‘Hell no!’…. We’re going to to do no such thing,” the speaker said.

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In Jerusalem, sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said the invitation , which came just hours after the State of the Union address, came from the leadreship of both parties, not just the GOP.

Obama last week warned that rash action by Congress would increase the risk of a military showdown with Iran, and that “Congress will have to own that as well.” In an unusual step, British Prime Minister David Cameron had called members of Congress to urge them to hold off on sanctions. The White House criticized the invitation yesterday. White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters in a daily briefing that the invite was “a departure from protocol,” addimg that “such invitations are usually made leader to leader.”

Boehner said he did not consult with the White House about inviting Netanyahu to speak, nor update the administration before he sent the invite or released a statement on the matter. Typically, requests for foreign leaders to address Congress are made in lengthy consultations with White House and the State Department.

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The invitation to speak before Congress could have negative ramifications for Israel’s long-term interests.

Earnest said the White House has yet to speak with the Prime Minister’s office about the possibility of a U.S, visit and a meeting with Obama. “We will reserve judgment on the trip until we hear from Israel officially,” he said.

Diplomatic protocol calls for a foreign nation’s leader to contact the White house before his arrival in the U.s., Earnest said, adding that the White House was not aware of the invitation sent to Netanyahu until yesterday morning, shortly after Boehner released a statement on the matter.

The White House’s criticism of the invitation was also echoed in the State Department’s daily briefing. Spokeswomen Jen Psaki said there was no mention of Netanyahu’s intention of visiting the U.S. and Israel. Traditionally, she said, it isn’t Boehner who informs the administration about the planned visit of a foreign leader.

The invitation to speak before Congress could have negetive ramifications for Israel’s long-term interests. It portrays the Republican leadership as interfering in the Israeli election compaign and Netanyahu as intervening in the face-off between Congress and the Obama administration. It injects the U.S.-Israeli relationship into the Israeli election compaign and it inserts the troubled Obama-Netanyahu relationship into the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran.

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Above all, it places Netanyahu and the White House on a collision course that could make their previous clashes seem like child’s party.

Of these concerns, the Republican intervention in the Israeli elections is the less troubling. U.S. administrations have intervened in the past in Israeli elections, with questionable results: Clinton went all out for Shimon Peres in 1996, but ended up with Netanyahu as prime minister. And while Netanyahu’s center-left rivals might grumble about the foreign aid he is receiving from his pals in Congress, they are unlikely to remember the incident if they are elected to office in March and a Republican is elected president in 2016.

Obama said “The American people expect us to only go to war as a last resort, and I intend to stay true to that wisdom.”

It’s not even clear that a speech in Washington will do Netanyahu much good, electorally speaking . Israelis are already used to seeing him receiving a rapturous reception in Congress, and seeing it again is unlikely to sway them one way or the other.

Far more problematic is Netanyahu’s willingness to openly defy the U.S. president in his own backyard on an issue on which Obama has vowed to fight to the end. In his State of the Union address, Obama said new sanctions “will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails, alienating America from its allies and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again.” Pledging to use his veto against any new sanctions bill, Obama said “The American people expect us to only go to war as a last resort, and I intend to stay true to that wisdom.”

The Haaretz article ends:
These dangers go far beyond the scope of electoral ploys and political machinations. At best, they could jeoparadize any hope for anamicable relationship between Obama and Netanyahu, should he win the march elections. At worst, they could lay the groundwork for unprecedented and potentially explosive damage to U.S.- Israeli relations and to Israel’s longterm standing in American public opinion.