Shortly, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will offer a speech before the American Congress. There has been controversy in the lead up to his actual delivery based upon intent, personality differences, even style and I refer to the prime minister and President Obama. However, there is a greater controversy present.
Alan Dershowitz recently wrote that “this controversy is not mainly about protocol and politics—it is about the constitutional system of checks and balances and the separation of powers.”
He is absolutely correct. It is more than just the executive and legislative branches implementing foreign policy decisions together. It is also more important than whether Congress (in this case the U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives) has the right to invite a world leader and to do so even over the objection of the president.
The U.S. president employed another world leader—British Prime Minister Cameron—to lobby Congress via personal phone calls on the issue of Congressional sanctions against Iran. Clearly, there is a precedent. The issue is not precedent. There is, however, an even more important issue at hand.
It is an intrusion on the power of Congress by the executive branch cutting to the heart of U.S. constitutional separation of powers; an offense ironically committed by a constitutional lawyer—turned scholar—turned president.
That President Obama objects to the Israeli prime minister speaking to Congress not in principle, rather over content of what the prime minister may or may not say, brings us back to the point: a breach of constitutional separation of powers.
Congress has a critical role in examining i.e. checking the decisions of the president especially on decisions involving national security, relationships with allies and the threat of nuclear proliferation. Disagreements between allies are common. Disagreements between political parties common expected, but the current controversy and extreme partisan nature masks a greater controversy.