With Friends Like These: White House Tries To Further Sabotage Netanyahu’s Speech Against Nuclear Iran

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obama-netanyahuIn what is becoming an increasingly nasty grudge match, the White House is mulling ways to undercut Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming trip to Washington and blunt his message that a potential nuclear deal with Iran is bad for Israel and the world.

There are limits. Administration officials have discarded the idea of President Barack Obama himself giving an Iran-related address to rebut the two speeches Netanyahu is to deliver during his early March visit. But other options remain on the table.

Among them: a presidential interview with a prominent journalist known for coverage of the rift between Obama and Netanyahu, multiple Sunday show television appearances by senior national security aides and a pointed snub of America’s leading pro-Israel lobby, which is holding its annual meeting while Netanyahu is in Washington, according to the officials.

The administration has already ruled out meetings between Netanyahu and Obama, saying it would be inappropriate for the two to meet so close to Israel’s March 17 elections. But the White House is now doubling down on a cold-shoulder strategy, including dispatching Cabinet members out of the country and sending a lower-ranking official than normal to represent the administration at the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the officials said.

Vice President Joe Biden will be away, his absence behind Netanyahu conspicuous in coverage of the speech to Congress. Other options were described by officials, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss internal deliberations.

Netanyahu’s plan for a March 3 address to a joint meeting of Congress has further strained already tense ties between the U.S. and Israel. Congressional Republicans orchestrated Netanyahu’s visit without consulting the White House or State Department, a move the Obama administration blasted as a break in diplomatic protocol. Some Democratic lawmakers say they will boycott the speech.

U.S. officials believe Netanyahu’s trip to Washington is aimed primarily at derailing a nuclear deal with Iran, Obama’s signature foreign policy objective. While Netanyahu has long been skeptical of the negotiations, his opposition has increased over what he sees as Obama’s willingness to make concessions that would leave Iran on the brink of being able to build a nuclear weapon. His opposition has intensified as negotiations go into overdrive with an end-of-March deadline for a framework deal.

“I think this is a bad agreement that is dangerous for the state of Israel, and not just for it,” Netanyahu said Thursday.

The difference of opinion over the deal has become unusually rancorous.

The White House and State Department have both publicly accused Israeli officials of leaking “cherry-picked” details of the negotiations to try to discredit the administration. And, in extraordinary admissions this past week, the administration acknowledged that the U.S. is withholding sensitive details of the talks from Israel, its main Middle East ally, to prevent such leaks.

The rebukes have only emboldened the leader of Israel, whose country Iran has threatened to annihilate. He has a double-barrel attack on the Iran talks ready for when he arrives in Washington. Not only will he address Congress, he will also deliver similar remarks at the AIPAC conference, an event to which administrations past and present have traditionally sent top foreign policy officials.

But maybe not this year.

An AIPAC official said Friday that the group has not yet received any reply to its invitation for senior administration figures to attend the meeting that starts March 1. The official stressed that last-minute RSVPs are not unusual, but the White House has been signaling for some time that a Cabinet-level guest may not be coming.

Instead, the administration is toying with the idea of sending newly installed Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken to speak to the conference, according to officials familiar with internal discussions on the matter. But it’s possible Treasury Secretary Jack Lew could attend.

Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry, who have both previously addressed AIPAC, will be out of the country on foreign travel that appears to have been arranged to make them unavailable to speak. Biden will be visiting Uruguay and Guatemala on a trip that was announced after Netanyahu’s speech was scheduled, while the State Department announced abruptly this past week that Kerry will be traveling to as-yet-determined destinations for the duration of the AIPAC conference.

Obama spoke to AIPAC in 2012, while he was in the midst of his re-election campaign.

The following officials will not attend Netanyahu’s speech:

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.) — Wrote a Jan. 29 column in The Huffington Post explaining his decision, saying the Constitution “vests the responsibility for foreign affairs in the president.”

Rep. G.K. Butterfield (N.C.) — The head of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) focused on Boehner undermining Obama in a statement and emphasized he’s not urging a boycott.

Rep. Andre Carson (Ind.)

Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.) — Clyburn is the highest-ranking Democratic leader to say he’ll skip the speech.

Rep. Diana DeGette (Colo.)

Rep. Donna Edwards (Md.)

Rep. Keith Ellison (Minn.) — He is head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), a member of the CBC and the first Muslim in Congress.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.) — Grijalva is a co-chairman of the CPC.

Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (Ill.) — A spokesman told the Chicago Sun-Times that Gutierrez has a “strong” record on Israel but called the speech “a stunt.”

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.)

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (Texas) — “The Congresswoman has no plans to attend the speech at this time,” a spokeswoman said.

Rep. Barbara Lee (Calif.) — A member of the CBC and former head of the CPC.

Rep. John Lewis (Ga.) — His office confirmed he’s not going but emphasized he’s not organizing a formal boycott

Rep. Betty McCollum (Minn.): “In my view Mr. Netanyahu’s speech before Congress is nothing more than a campaign event hosted by Speaker Boehner and paid for by the American people,” McCollum said in a statement.”

Rep. Jim McDermott (Wash.) — “I do not intend to attend the speech of Bibi,” he said in an email to a Seattle newspaper.

Rep. Gregory Meeks (N.Y.) — A CBC member.

Rep. Beto O’Rourke (Texas)

Rep. Chellie Pingree (Maine)

Rep. Charles Rangel (N.Y.) — “I’m offended as an American,” he said on MSNBC.

Rep. Cedric Richmond (La.)

Rep. Bennie Thompson (Miss.)

Rep. John Yarmuth (Ky.) — “We know what he is going to say,” the Jewish lawmaker said in a statement.

 

Senate (3)

Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.) — Leahy called it a “tawdry and high-handed stunt,” according to a  Vermont newspaper.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — Sanders, who caucuses with Democrats, said it’s “wrong” that Obama wasn’t consulted about the speech.

Sen. Brian Schatz (Hawaii) — “The U.S.-Israel relationship is too important to be overshadowed by partisan politics,” said Schatz in a statement. “I am disappointed in the Republican leadership’s invitation of Prime Minister Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress with the apparent purpose of undermining President Obama’s foreign policy prerogatives.”

 

(AP)


25 COMMENTS

  1. Im really excited for him to speak. There is nobody better then him in a prepared speech. So far a very small pct of congressman have said they are not coming –

  2. It is probably not in the United States’s interests to alienate Iran. The US needs Iran’s help against Islamic State, whereas any assistance Israel can provide only alienates the rest of the Islamic world. Unfortunately for Israel, this is a long dreaded situation where it is clearly in the interests of the United States to stab Israel in the back. If those fighting Islamic State win quickly it will help Israel, but the longer the west sees them as a threat, the worse it will be for Israel.

  3. Just another example of King Obama thinking that he rules the world and how dare anyone say or even think differently. But it’s Ok because every single one of these cowards who will buck to the will of Obama by not attending the speech will watch or listen to the speech in the privacy of their home of office.

  4. A friend sent this to me:

    Once there was a King in Shushan, the most powerful ruler in the world, who had a strong disdain, dislike or perhaps even hatred of Jews.
    Today there is a President in Washington, the most powerful ruler in the world, who has a strong disdain, dislike or perhaps even hatred of Jews.

    Once there was a Persian who wanted to kill all the Jews, but needed the King’s authorization to proceed with his plan.
    Today there are Persians who want to kill all the Jews, but needs the President’s authorization to proceed with their plan.

    The King didn’t really care, as long as there was something in it for him – lots of money.
    The President doesn’t really care, as long as there is something in it for him – a deal with the Persians.

    The Jewish Queen wanted to tell the King what was really happening, but going in to talk to the King was dangerous.
    The Jewish Prime Minister wants to tell the President and his Congress what is really happening, but going to talk to them is dangerous.

    Some people thought she shouldn’t go, it would just anger the King and make things worse.
    Some people think he shouldn’t go, it will just anger the President and make things worse.

    She asked the Jews to fast and pray for the success of her mission. They did so, the King accepted her words and the plot to destroy them was thwarted.
    Will we fast and pray for the success of his mission? Will the President and Congress accept his words? Will the plot to destroy us be thwarted?

    We commemorate the fasting prior to the Queen’s plea to the King on Taanis Ester.
    The Prime Minister of Israel has been invited to address the United States Congress on March 3. This year Taanis Ester begins on match 3rd.

  5. Netanyahu is destroying a bipartisan consensus on Israel that took decades to build. Were he to simply speak to AIPAC there would be no controversy — and he’d have an audience 20x as large. What is he going to say to Congress that he is refusing to say to AIPAC?

  6. You can’t compare Netanyahu to Esther Hamalka. He does not listen to gedoilei Yisrael. Esther Hamalka went at the request of Mordechai. It could be Netanyahu is wrong for going. We don’t know. He has not asked daas toirah. Nevertheless we must definately fast and do teshuva and pray that moshiach should come very soon and take us out of all our troubles. One thing I can zssure you. Netanyahu is NOT Moshiach!

  7. All these comparisons to the Purim story are cute, except for one tiny fact. Ester did NOT confront Achashveirosh and Haman on Ta’anis Ester. That incident occurred during Pesach.

  8. charliehall: If he is complaining about the US throwing Israel under the bus in order to appease Iran and the Muslim states, the only place that would have meaning would be to the Congress. The analagous situation is the speech given by Haile Selassie to the League of Nations, in what many say is a similar situation (the great western powers decided to sacrifise a small country in the hopes of worl d peace and avoiding conflict). Would Haile Selassie’s speech have had the same impact on history if given to an of anti-Fascist lobby organization?

  9. It amazes me that Jews blame Netanyahu instead of the childish Obama, who constantly does things to harm us. It was reported that Israel notified the White House before Netanyahu accepted the invitation from Congress.

    Just a civics reminder, Congress has its responsibilities independent of the White House. Netanyahu has responsibilities to Israel. Most of the Arab world agrees with Netanyahu on this and fear Iran becoming a nuclear power and also doesn’t trust Obama with good reason.

    This is a typical Obama ploy to destroy any opposition. He also has been interfering with Israeli politics in other ways as well.

  10. @db83, the comparison is very good. The only problem with it is that Taanis Esther does not commemorate the fast that Esther fasted before she went to speak to the king. That actually happened on Pesach. It’s to commemorate the fast that the Jews fasted when they went out to battle to fight for their lives. (I guess that works too).

  11. #8:
    I have no problem with the fact that your views are ardently liberal, but some contact with reality wouldn’t hurt.

    The one who was destroyed the bipartison consensus on Israel is Obama, and he’s been at it for six years. Not one world leader – not even the late King of the Saudis, whose #1 world export isn’t even oil but Wahhabism, which is one of the most radical strains of Islam, or the leader of Sudan who is responsible for the violent deaths of hundreds of thousands of people – has been snubbed from the getgo the way that Obama has snubbed Netanyahu.

    Obama’s open disdain both of Netanyahu and Israel’s right to defend herself and make her own decisions, as well as his obtuse refusal to recognize anti-Semitic acts of terror as such, are what has destroyed the bipartisan consensus, not Netanyahu’s acceptance of a completely legitimate invitation by Boehner – which, by the way, the White House was notified about before it became public.

    As an aside, Obama and his administration are unbelievable hypocrits. They are shocked, shocked that Boehner would invite a foreign dignitary to speak to Congress without consulting Barackingham Palace (which he doesn’t have to do), but he and they can give Congress the run-around whenever they see fit and that’s cool. If you can’t take it, don’t dish it out.

  12. #8 you cant be more right, i like the comparisions to purim exsactly like those who went to the the kings party how sad the level he brings anti semitisim 2

  13. @charliehall let’s rephrase your words “Obama is destroying a bipartisan consensus on Israel that took decades to build.”

    About your q: Let’s wait and see..

  14. charliehall will stop at nothing to whitewash Obama (pun intended), his petulant attitude, and his unconcealed animus for Israel, Netanyahu, and Jews in general. Netanyahu, as the prime minister of Israel has an obligation to speak up for the safety of his country and 6 million Jewish Israelis, notwithstanding Obama’s moods, likes, opposition, etc. Shame on those who voted for Obama! Double shame for those who voted for Obama twice! 10x shame for those who didn’t only vote for Obama twice, but also support this produce of affirmative action, good-for-nothing’s policies.

  15. charlie being charlie again,

    Netanyahu is destroying a bipartisan consensus on Israel that took decades to build

    they all agreed to come until obama said “we werent consulted” when they really were