President Obama’s diplomatic spat with Prime Minister Netanyahu regarding Netanyahu’s scheduled appearance before Congress has gone on for too long. In this spat, many Democrats backed their President, threatening a boycott of the Israeli Prime Minister’s appearance.
U.S. Presidents and Israeli Prime Ministers have disagreed in the past, and sometimes there were short term ramifications, but never did they threaten Israel’s very security as the President is now doing.
The President has just upped the ante, threatening to withhold from Israel updates on the status of the P5+1 nuclear talks with Iran. According to a news report on Israel’s Channel 2, Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, who is in charge of the nuclear talks with Iran, has announced that she is no longer briefing Israel about the talks, because “the Israeli government is using the information in a manipulative and political way.” And Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, has announced that she is cutting off contact with her Israeli counterpart, Yossi Cohen, because “Israel has turned an international security issue to a political one, and is using it to influence internal U.S. politics.”
The President is now holding Israel’s very security hostage, and it is time for the Democrats to demand that the President stop it.
From the outset, the spat was orchestrated by the President, whose hostility to Netanyahu he wears on his sleeve. The President initially stated several objections to Netanyahu’s appearance before Congress: 1) Diplomatic protocol was broken because Netanyahu accepted the invitation from Speaker of the House Boehner before the President was notified of the invitation. 2) The President does not want to interfere in the upcoming Israeli elections. 3) Netanyahu’s speech might upset the delicate negotiations the U.S. is having with Iran on its nuclear program.
As for the Democrats, they say that they are backing the President because they see the invitation an attempt by Boehner to embarrass the President, and Netanyahu’s acceptance of the invitation as siding against the President.
Regarding that first issue (that Netanyahu accepted the invitation before the President was notified), the President outright lied. It is true that as a matter of courtesy and diplomatic protocol, the President should be notified of the invitation before the Prime Minister accepts it. But later reports in the press confirm that the President was indeed notified of the invitation before Netanyahu accepted it. This misstatement of the facts by the President was no simple or unintentional mistake .
Furthermore, the invitation was no insult to the President as the Democrats like to claim. There is a separation of powers in the United States. The President can invite whomever he wants for an Executive meeting. And the Speaker can invite whomever he wants for a Congressional address. This invitation was entirely proper and is the normal way of doing things. In fact, the Speaker of the House also invited the Pope to address both Houses of Congress, and the Pope accepted, with no objections from the President or the Democrats.
Why did the President lie, and when the Democrats later found out that the President lied, why didn’t they call off the boycott? And why do the President and the Democrats find the Pope acceptable but not the Israeli Prime Minister?
Regarding the second issue (non-interference in the Israeli elections), here again the President simply lied.
For one thing, the Speaker of the House, not the President, issued the invitation. Thus, the invitation cannot constitute Presidential interference in the Israeli election.
Furthermore, as I pointed out in an earlier blog, the President sent a team of PR experts to Israel to ensure Netanyahu’s defeat and the election of a Leftist Israeli government. And the President ensured that Secretary of State Kerry met with Netanyahu’s main opponent, Yitzhak Herzog, in Munich. Both of these constitute gross interference in the upcoming election.
Clearly, the orchestrated diplomatic spat, now just upgraded by the President to a genuine threat to Israel’s security, are all specifically intended to hurt Netanyahu in Israel’s upcoming elections. Which it is. Netanyahu’s opponents, who have no scruples whatsoever, are blaming the spat on Netanyahu, instead of the President.
Regarding the third issue (the delicate nature of the negotiations with Iran), here again, this is a smokescreen for Obama’s true intentions. As I also previously pointed out, if the deal being worked out that leaves Iran non-nuclear, Netanyahu would be thrilled and would sing the praises of the President’s agreement to all and sundry. Therefore, one must wonder why the President wants to silence Netanyahu on this all important issue. Violation of diplomatic protocol? Upcoming Israeli elections? Hardly. As the President and the American people know, the agreement leaves Iran’s centrifuges in place – centrifuges whose only purpose is to enable nuclear weapons.
Whether or not Boehner wants to embarrass the President is an internal U.S. issue unrelated to the Prime Minister. More critically, it loses all significance if Netanyahu is coming to sound the alarm about a very bad agreement, in which case both Houses of Congress and the American people would do well to pay attention to what he has to say.
Until now, the fake Presidential spin could be ignored. But now it is imperative to get past this nonsense. The President is not only actively trying to unseat the Israeli Prime Minister, he is threatening Israel’s very security. It is time for the entire Congress, and especially the Democrats, to stand together with Israel, to stand up to this Presidential threat to Israel’s security, and to tell the President “Enough!”
If the Democrats fail to do so, if they boycott the Prime Minster and allow an agreement that lets Iran go nuclear, they will be repeating the silence of the American Congress when FDR closed the door to Jewish refugees. (Irony or not, Israel now has the same number of Jews as were murdered in the Holocaust.)
And if Iran does go nuclear, one can imagine how the Democrats will explain to their children and to the world how they let it happen: “Well, you must understand. We had to boycott the Prime Minister and support the President when he let Iran go nuclear. Otherwise, Boehner’s political ploy would have hurt the President’s image.” In such an eventuality, I’m sure history will judge them kindly for that Presidential support. Just as history judged Chamberlain and Daladier kindly for bringing peace to the 20th century.