Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Message to the Prime Minister: Go for It!

House Speaker John Boehner and Prime Mister Benjamin Netanyahu
The criticism against Prime Mister Netanyahu has been constant and in some cases fierce. J-Street has a  petition with 20,000 signature so far asking him to withdraw from his decision to accept  House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to address a joint session of congress. The latest critic is the Anti Defamation League. There has been a chorus of political pundits in both Israel and the US that have criticized him for doing this – characterizing it has a cynical attempt to bolster his prestige prior to Israel’s upcoming election.  

The reason for all the criticism (aside from assigning narcissistic motives to Netanyahu) is that by accepting an invitation directly from the Congress, he has snubbed the White House. The protocol is for foreign leaders to be invited by the White House. And once here, congress (if they so choose) will then invite them to address it. This time the White House was by-passed.  Congress went directly to Netanyahu and invited him to come here and address them directly. 

The President for his part has decided to snub Netanyahu back - and will not meet with him. The reason he gave for that is that it it has always been US policy never to invite any world leader immediately before their elections - so as not to influence them.  Many pundits cite this as yet another incident bringing relations between the two countries to its lowest point in many years. Which they say is further evidence of just how much the President and Prime Minister can’t stand each other. And that the result of all this will negatively affect Israel.

Well, I’m not buying any of it. I know that most of the above is the conventional wisdom. But there are some very important factors that indicate to me that none of this is really the case.

That the President and the Prime Minister disagree on policy is no secret. Not any more than it is a secret that Netanyahu and his political rivals in Israel disagree. And he has a lot of them there. But the relationship between the 2 countries has never been stronger – despite that disagreement. There is no argument between the President and the Prime Minister on that. 

The idea that Israel will suffer consequences because of a speech is laughable. Cooperation between the 2 countries goes both ways.  Does anyone seriously believe that Israeli intelligence is of no value to the US? Does anyone seriously believe that the US would want to jeopardize the close relationship any more than Israel would?   Furthermore, I happen to believe that the President means what he says when he says the US has Israel’s back. I cannot imagine any scenario where the President would back-pedal from that. 

Nor do I really believe that the 2 leaders hate each other all that much. They may not be the best of friends. But…hate? That’s a pretty strong word and I have never seen or heard any statement from either of them that even remotely hints at that. Instead I hear them both say that the relationship between the two counties are as strong as ever. Stressing that disagreement between 2 allies is quite normal. All this talk about hate comes from other - usually ‘unnamed sources’. And they are immediately denied by the President 

The haters might just be people with their own agenda. Not the President himself. But even if they do hate each other. That has been the case from almost the beginning of the Obama Presidency. And yet the relationship since then has only improved.

What is lost in all of this is the real reason he was invited. It wasn’t just a ploy of Israel’s ambassador to the US, Ron Dormer. Although he may have set this whole thing in motion, John Boehner is not an idiot. You don’t become the Speaker of the House by being an idiot. He knew there would be criticism but invited Netanyahu anyway. He too disagrees with the President’s appeasement policy with respect to a Nuclear capable Iran. As the so-called negotiations continue, Iran’s enrichment program goes on full speed ahead. Since the talks began they have substantially increased the enrichment of fissile material. Rome is burning while US negotiators are fiddling.

Now I am not saying I know what to do about that. But it is clear to me that what we are doing now isn’t working. And members of the President’s own party have expressed the same doubts.

In light of all the terrorism in the world right now, Why wouldn’t congress want to hear what one of the world’s foremost experts on terror has to say about it? And why wouldn’t the Prime Minister of Israel want to do whatever he can to protect his country from a nuclear Iran? If speaking to congress can change a few more Democrat hearts and minds, I think he should go for it. Netanyahu may be a politician interested in getting elected. But which politician isn’t?  So let the critics on both sides of the Atlantic squawk. This too shall pass. 

If this helps Netanyahu win with a stronger government, I’m all for it. Although there was some speculation that Netanyahu might succumb to all this pressure to withdraw from speaking to congress, it seems he will not succumb it - and will speak. And the US Israeli relationship will remain as strong as ever - with the same bi-partisan support it has now.

So far 3 senators have said they will not attend the joint session of congress that PM Netanyahu will address. 2 of them are Jewish. And one of those Bernie Sanders who is neither a Democrat or Republican -  and pretty much a Socialist. The 3rd is Patrick Leahy whose claim to fame was being caught leaking sensitive information to the press when doing so benefited him or hampered his political opponents. And he's the one who is accusing Boehner of partisanship? This foolish politcal politcal ploy cost his to resign form the Senate Intelligence Committee He was vice chairman at the time. (I can't believe Leahy was re-elected after that!)

The reason these 3 Senators say they will not attend? They say it is because this speech undermines the bi-partisanship support of Israel. What fools. It is they who are undermining it by boycotting the speech. If there were 100% attendance it will show bi-partisan support. if they want to support Israel they ought to show up.