Benjamin Netanyahu's secret deal with Republican leaders to address Congress next month to lobby against the policies of President Barack Obama has stirred up anger in the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and could threaten their support for Israel.
Many African-American lawmakers see the controversy in "purely racial terms," said a pro-Israel source close to the CBC.
Netanyahu, in their view, has made an alliance with the Republican leadership to defy and humiliate their president.
Several have announced they will boycott the Netanyahu speech because they feel they are "being asked to choose between the first African American president of their country and a foreign leader."
Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia), one of the most respected lawmakers on either side of the aisle and a civil rights pioneer, called the speech "an affront to the president." Many others expressed similar feelings that Boehner and Netanyahu were being "disrespectful" of the first African-American president.
In light of Netanyahu's well-known antipathy toward Barack Obama, a prominent senior member of the CBC said many of his colleagues feel the PM's appearance "is a direct slap at them by the leader of Israel."
Pro-Israel activists who have worked to build ties between the two communities fear Netanyahu's partisan alliance with conservative Republicans could do considerable damage to the black-Jewish alliance among Democrats in the Congress.