At this point I’m starting to wonder if this speech is even going to happen. One thing is for sure, though… the Democrats are lining up to turn this into the biggest political football possible, even as they decry the injecting of politics into America’s relationship to events in Israel. We already saw Joe Biden send back his RSVP with regrets, and now several more of the President’s allies are bailing out.
More than a dozen congressional Democrats say they plan to skip Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of Congress amid conflicting signals over whether he will pull out from the March 3 address.
Netanyahu struck a defiant tone during a campaign event in Israel on Monday, saying he was “determined” to present the case for why Israel opposed the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran “before the members of Congress and the American people.” …
But multiple reports on Monday suggested that his office was weighing ways Netanyahu could alter his plans to mend what has become a tough diplomatic breach, and the Israeli leader did not explicitly mention the speech to a joint session in his public comments.
Joining the walkout on Monday were Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) Oddly enough, Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer and Barbara Boxer are saying they will show up, assuming the address to a joint session of Congress even takes place. But that’s no longer a sure thing, it seems.
But Reuters reported that Netanyahu was weighing addressing a closed session of Congress or moving the speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual meeting.
Separately, an Israeli official told CNN that the speech was still planned “at this moment,” leaving an opening for a change.
This entire affair has turned into an exercise in frustration as far as I’m concerned and both parties here in the United States are adding to the circus atmosphere. Trying to pretend that this isn’t all about politics – both here and in Israel – is plainly disingenuous. Bibi may not be on his way out the door back home, but he’s clearly facing a serious challenge from his left and has been making this a campaign issue. The GOP is understandably dissatisfied with the President’s attitude and policies toward Israel, and the invitation for Netanyahu to speak, while perfectly within the authority of Congress, was designed to poke a finger in Obama’s eye. At the same time, the so called “two week rule” the President is invoking in terms of not meeting with another foreign leader is a self-imposed sham. It’s a volatile part of the world and if the leader of one of our allies wanted to talk to him, the door should be open.
And all of this is supposedly being staged to accomplish what, precisely? Does anyone really think that Bibi is going to show up and make some fresh, new announcement which he hasn’t said a hundred times already? The man isn’t going to stand up in front of Congress and say, Oh, by the way… we’ll be bombing Tehran in fifteen minutes. It’s a symbolic gesture at best, and while symbolism is important in both politics and foreign relations, whether this speech took place or not (or where or when for that matter) was never going to change anything.
Pretty much everyone involved in this sideshow is acting like spoiled brats at this point. In a sane world, as soon as Netanyahu expressed an interest in speaking, Boehner and McConnell could have responded to both the Prime Minister and our President and said it was a fine idea, set up a time and moved forward. If Obama didn’t want this to be a mess and conceivably even find a way to turn it into an advantage, he could have extended an offer to meet privately with Bibi before the speech or even show up at it with him. That would have presented a unified front between two allies for the rest of the world and the whole thing could have been a done deal by now. There’s nothing remarkable about a world leader making a speech in Washington. It’s pretty much what the place exists for.
Instead, it’s turned into yet another political bone to chew. And when the whole thing shakes out, pretty much nothing will have changed.