Bibi RSVPs "with regrets" to Democrats for private meeting

By the time this speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu takes place before Congress next week, the actual content of the remarks may be the least relevant aspect of the story. As you may recall, some of the Democrats, apparently trying to put on a show of solidarity with the President, said that they would skip the speech. But in an attempt to remain relevant, Dianne Feinstein and Dick Durbin invited Netanyahu to a private, closed door meeting with Democrats. The Prime Minister got back to them yesterday and let them know that it’s not going to happen.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined on Tuesday an invitation to meet with U.S. Senate Democrats during his trip to Washington next week.

“Though I greatly appreciate your kind invitation to meet with Democratic Senators, I believe that doing so at this time could compound the misperception of partisanship regarding my upcoming visit,” Netanyahu wrote in a letter to Senators Richard Durbin and Dianne Feinstein obtained by Reuters.

Durbin and Feinstein, two senior Senate Democrats, invited Netanyahu to a closed-door meeting with Democratic senators in a letter on Monday, warning that making U.S.-Israeli relations a partisan political issue could have “lasting repercussions.”

The last time I wrote about this subject I expressed a great deal of skepticism regarding precisely what this dog and pony show was supposed to accomplish aside from moving various political footballs down the field. Despite the numerous objections from our readers to that position, none of these maneuvers taking place in Washington and Tel Aviv Jerusalem has done much to change my mind. On the plus side – since it seems far too late to stop this from becoming a sideshow – Bibi gave the best answer which could be offered in this case. Accepting a private meeting with members of only one party when you are there to address the entire Congress absolutely would give the perception of partisanship.

But we’re being dishonest if we leave that last sentence hanging in the air without qualifiers. The correct way to put it would be to say that such a meeting would add another layer of partisanship. The Republican leadership certainly has more than adequate justification for harboring frustration over the current state of the nation’s alliance with Israel. It is further true that our specific relationship with Netanyahu – a world leader in his own right and one of our strongest allies – is pretty much at an all time low. But that doesn’t change the fact that this was a partisan political maneuver on the part of congressional Republicans, simply because it is flatly impossible to extricate politics from this sort of discussion.

Netanyahu is no babe in the woods and he’s fully aware of the political situation in the United States. Taking a meeting with the Democrats would have been even worse, but the situation has already devolved into a political sideshow rather a serious discussion of of relations between Iran and the west, as well as Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. The only way that this kerfuffle could have been ameliorated was if both sides had dropped their defensive postures once the invitation to speak had been offered and accepted and simply all shown up together to listen politely and applaud. Obviously that wasn’t possible in the modern climate of Washington, so this is going to remain a mess until the event has come and gone.