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 speech was devised by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer to provide Netanyahu a prominent Washington platform to warn about the dangers of the proposed deal with Iran. But it also appeared to be based on an Israeli perception that Obama was weakened after midterm elections gave control of both houses of Congress to Republicans, and timed to take place just two weeks before Netanyahu faces reelection on March 17 — and footage of American officials applauding him couldn’t hurt his prospects.