Jewish House Democrats personally offered Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a chance to lower the political temperature after he accepted a Republican invitation to speak to Congress next week on Iran — a less provocative, closed-door session.

Netanyahu turned them down, frustrating members of President Barack Obama’s party who are caught between the White House and the Israeli leader…

National Security Adviser Susan Rice said this week that the planned speech was “destructive” to relations between the two countries. Vice President Joe Biden will be traveling and won’t attend. Obama has no plans to meet with Netanyahu during his U.S. visit…

Nearly a dozen lawmakers have chosen to skip the speech, and across Congress, Democrats have labored to keep their fury focused on Boehner.

The expected substance of the speech, coupled with the fact that the White House was not alerted to the invite ahead of time, has Democrats crying foul.

Twenty-seven Democratic House members and four Democratic senators have said in recent weeks they’re not going to the speech, many in protest to a move that they say is an affront to the president.

Many more have said they’re undecided on whether to attend, and more defections could emerge in the coming days.

Just four days before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to a joint meeting of Congress, the Obama administration sought on Friday to refute the Israeli leader’s expected critique, arguing that he has failed to present a feasible alternative to American proposals for constraining Iran’s nuclear program.

In a briefing for reporters, senior administration officials contended that even an imperfect agreement that kept Iran’s nuclear efforts frozen for an extended period was preferable to a breakdown in talks that could allow the leadership in Tehran unfettered ability to produce enriched uranium and plutonium…

Mr. Netanyahu, in a speech he is giving at the invitation of the House speaker, John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, is expected to argue that the agreement taking shape now would leave Iran with a vast infrastructure it could use to pursue the development of nuclear weapons once the agreement expired, allowing Iran to become a “nuclear threshold state.”…

But the concerns voiced by Mr. Netanyahu are also shared by Saudi Arabia and other Arab states that are regional rivals of Iran.

The deeper cause for concern within the administration was a feeling that the speech means Mr. Netanyahu has concluded that there is no version of the deal currently being negotiated with Iran that he can endorse—and that he is embarked on a strategy of using his strong connections with Republicans in Congress to find a way to use the legislative branch to block an agreement negotiated by the executive branch.

“He’s advocating against any deal. That’s just not diplomacy,” a senior administration official said. “And he’s not putting forward an alternative deal.”…

There was a time, not long ago, when Mr. Netanyahu appeared to be pleased enough with the economic pressure the U.S. and the West were putting on Iran that he thought it might produce a deal he considered good enough. By all appearances, that’s what has changed.

Iran on Saturday shrugged off a bid by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to abort a nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers by lobbying opposition in a speech to the US Congress.

“I believe this effort is fruitless and it should not be an impediment to an agreement,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said at a joint press conference with his visiting Italian counterpart Paolo Gentiloni…

Netanyahu’s bid was “an attempt to utilise a fabricated crisis to cover up realities in the region, including occupation, the suppression of Palestinians and the violation of their rights”, he said.

Given all this, can it really be the case that the American people will not know what to think about any prospective Iran deal until one man, and only one man, gets up to speak in one venue, and only one venue, and does so in the first week of March, and only in that week? That is what those who insist it is vital that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speak before a joint meeting of Congress next week would have us believe.

Even the most eloquent speech by Netanyahu will not add more than marginally to what has already been said and heard. But even if the drama of the situation and the prime minister’s eloquence were to highlight the already well-articulated case against a bad deal, the question is: at what price?

Is anyone thinking about the future? From now on, whenever the opposition party happens to control Congress — a common enough occurrence — it may call in a foreign leader to speak to a joint meeting of Congress against a president and his policies. Think of how this might have played out in the past. A Democratic-controlled Congress in the 1980s might, for instance, have called the Nobel Prize-winning Costa Rican President Oscar Arias to denounce President Ronald Reagan’s policies in Central America. A Democratic-controlled Congress in 2003 might have called French President Jacques Chirac to oppose President George W. Bush’s impending war in Iraq.

Does that sound implausible? Yes, it was implausible — until now.

It would be reassuring—sort of—to believe that Benjamin Netanyahu decided to set the U.S.-Israel relationship on fire mainly because he fears that President Obama is selling out Israel. But Netanyahu’s speech to Congress on March 3—a speech arranged without Obama’s knowledge by Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer and by Obama’s chief Republican rival, House Speaker John Boehner—is motivated by another powerful fear: the fear of unemployment. The message Bibi is preparing to deliver on Tuesday (a “statesmanlike message,” according to an official close to him) has as its actual target not Congress but, instead, Israeli voters who need reminding, in Netanyahu’s view, that he is the only leader strong enough to face down both the genocidal regime in Tehran and the Israel-loathing regime in Washington. (Make no mistake: Netanyahu sees Obama as an actual adversary. If only all of Israel’s adversaries would veto U.N. Security Council resolutions hostile to Israel…)

Bibi is facing an existential threat to his career, and Boehner is staging for him the ultimate campaign rally, 6,000 miles away from home. People I’ve spoken with in Israel who have a sophisticated understanding of current campaign dynamics—the Israeli election is set for March 17—say that a well-delivered, well-received speech (standing ovations in Congress seem very impressive unless you know better) could gain Netanyahu two or three extra seats in the Knesset, which might be what he needs to retain his job…

All of this is not to say that Netanyahu isn’t worried about Iran, and isn’t worried about a set of (for now, theoretical) concessions by the West that could put Iran on a slow but steady path to the nuclear threshold. But there is no reason—none, zero, efes—to believe that his putative goal, to stiffen the spine of Congress in advance of a framework agreement, could not have been achieved a) immediately after the election; b) in intensive one-on-one, or one-on-two, or five, lobbying meetings with senators; or c) in a way that didn’t so obviously disrespect the president of the United States, or place Democratic supporters of Israel in an atrocious bind. “If this didn’t have an electoral quality to it, why not just say to Boehner, ‘Invite me after the election’?” Dennis Ross, the former Middle East peace negotiator, asked me.

The last time Netanyahu addressed Congress, in 2011, he thanked President Obama for his “steadfast commitment to Israel’s security” and told the world that “time is running out” on preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon — a position I expect will be repeated in next week’s speech. Footage from that speech was used by the Likud Party for campaign commercials when Netanyahu last faced Israeli voters. Using video from the floor of the U.S. House for campaign purposes is prohibited for members of Congress — apparently except when they play extras in a commercial promoting Netanyahu.

On March 17, Israelis will elect a new government. They need to base their vote on their own priorities. It is my hope that Israelis will see Netanyahu’s speech for what it is — a campaign rally. Such a speech should be held on Israeli soil, not on the floor of the U.S. House…

In the meantime, I will respectfully abstain from attending Mr. Netanyahu’s campaign rally.

Via Pew:

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Do you think it is appropriate or inappropriate for Congressional leaders to invite a foreign head of government to give a speech in Congress to advocate against the policy of a sitting U.S. president?

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Barack Obama will go down in history as the American president who enabled the Shi’ite theocracy to become the region’s hegemonic power and looked the other way while Iran developed the bomb

The Netanyahu imbroglio is not about race, political formalities, or even personalities. Regrettably, the issue became should Netanyahu speak to Congress? This issue diverted attention from the issue of should Iran be permitted to continue to enrich uranium when most nations that generate nuclear power do not enrich their own uranium?…

Even allied nations have different interests, and it is the obligation of a nation’s leaders to pursue those interests. Under Mr. Obama, America’s primary interest has been to disengage from the Middle East, especially since despite the president’s energy policy, fracturing shale has turned America into an energy exporting nation.

But when it came to Iran, Mr. Obama not only engaged, he also prevented Israel from independently pursuing its own strategic interests to stop the Iranian program.

I appeal to those 23 individuals and any other undecided members of Congress to go to the joint meeting and hear what the prime minister has to say. Let me suggest some good reasons why:

● Go because this is about determining how best to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons and not just another Washington test of partisan and political loyalty…

● Go because you worry that it is not just the security of Israel and the Arab nations but the security of the United States that will be threatened if a bad agreement is made with Iran that enables it to build nuclear weapons it could put on its increasingly capable long-range missiles.

● Go because you are concerned about nuclear weapons proliferation and believe that a faulty deal with Iran will not only put it on the road to becoming a nuclear power but will also lead some of Iran’s Arab neighbors to acquire nuclear weapons as soon as possible.

But the problem isn’t protocol, Israeli elections, patriotism, or partisanship. It’s the fact that Netanyahu is going to make a powerful argument against enabling Iran to become a nuclear power. Many Americans will hear it–or of it. Many Americans will agree.

And for many on the Left, a nuclear Iran is seen as inevitable or innocuous. James Fallows at The Atlantic has written a string of confused pieces that suggests Iran is not a threat to Israel and argues that anyone attempting to weaken the president’s position in the Iranian negotiations is exhibiting dual loyalties. (You’ll note that supporters of the Jewish State are either cowards who clap for Israeli prime ministers because they are compelled to do so by dark forces, or cowards who are under the spell of wicked special interests.)…

Netanyahu may mention some of these apprehensions. Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice says the visit is “destructive of the fabric of the relationship.” It seems unlikely that Rice would ever use the word destructive to describe Iran’s obsession with obtaining nuclear weapons … but “partisanship,” now, that’s really corrosive. The fact is that the alliance with Israel has never been much of a partisan issue in the United States. Not until now. And even today only a handful of reliably anti-Israel politicians and a few Obama loyalists are skipping the speech so far. According to Gallup, 70 percent of Americans still have a favorable view of Israel…

So while there is plenty of criticism aimed at the aggressive methods of Netanyahu in Israel, there will also be widespread agreement among nearly all political denominations in the Jewish State regarding the substance of his speech and the warnings about a nuclear Iran. Surely, hearing out the case of an ally that is persistently threatened by Holocaust-denying Iranian officials doesn’t need to come with this much angst from Democrats. But if it does, it’s worth asking why.

As for Netanyahu, he is called “chickens***” by anonymous sources, the national security adviser says his decision to address Congress is “destructive” of the U.S.–Israel alliance, Kerry tells Congress it shouldn’t listen to Bibi because he voiced wan support for regime change in Iraq (a war that Kerry voted to authorize), the congressional liaison rallies the Congressional Black Caucus to boycott the speech, and the administration leaks to the AP its strategy “to undercut” his speech and “blunt his message that a potential nuclear deal with Iran is bad for Israel and the world.” The strategy includes media appearances and the threat of a “pointed snub” of AIPAC, which has done everything it can over the last several years to ignore or acquiesce to President Obama’s anti-Israel foreign policy.

This sort of contempt for one’s opponents has become so commonplace in American politics since the 2010 “bipartisan health-care summit,” where the president snidely told John McCain “the election’s over,” that I suppose it was only a matter of time before it influenced the administration’s relationships with foreign powers. But it says something about this president that the only country in the world that he treats seriously as an opponent is the state of Israel — that he holds the Israeli government to a standard he applies to no other government, that he is openly hostile to the elected prime minister of Israel and not so secretly hopes for the prime minister to be replaced in the upcoming election, and that he threatens reprisal against a domestic interest group with predominantly Jewish leadership and membership for a disagreement he has with a foreign prime minister — as though Jews were interchangeable when they are not, as in the case of the “deli” where they were “randomly” gunned down, invisible.

Netanyahu’s speech on Tuesday matters precisely because it is a rebuke to the Obama mode of politics, to which America has become numb. Netanyahu’s refusal to back down in the face of political and media pressure, his insistence in making his case directly and emphatically, is as much a statement as any of the technical and strategic and moral claims he will make in his speech. And by going to war against Bibi, the White House has inadvertently raised the stature of his address from a diplomatic courtesy to a global event.

[T]he Obama administration’s reaction to the Israeli prime minister’s appearance suggests Netanyahu’s is more than just another speech. An administration that disdains the use of disproportionate force has been, to say the least, disproportionately forceful in its efforts to undermine Netanyahu’s message and discredit the messenger. What is Obama so worried about? What is he, if we may put it indelicately, so scared of?…

President Obama has not, and will not, cast away the scabbard. Though Netanyahu will of course focus, as he should, on the details of a possible Iran agreement—the speech will be a moment that points beyond the particulars of an Iran deal. It will be a moment that could cause us to reflect on what kind of people we are, and, with new leadership, what kind of deeds we might once again be capable of.

As it will be a moment of vindication for Zionism, the cause to which he and his family have dedicated their lives. In past episodes of Jews’ being consigned by the world to their fate, they were powerless to fight. And so the world (and not a few Jews) became accustomed to Jews’ playing the role of victim. On March 3, something remarkable and historic will happen. The prime minister of Israel, speaking on behalf of not only his country and millions of Jews, but on behalf of the West itself, will command the world’s attention as he declares his refusal to appease the enemies of Israel and the West. Both Jabotinsky and Churchill, both Ben-Gurion and Truman, would appreciate the moment.