Eric S. Sherby

Meddling monarch myopia

Last Tuesday, when the world rightfully focused on the horrendous killing by ISIL of a young Jordanian pilot, another Jordanian news item got far less attention than it otherwise would have.

In Washington, King Abdullah of Jordan (who had been in the US on a previously scheduled trip) met with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and reportedly expressed criticism – yes, believe it or not, criticism – of the Obama administration’s efforts to combat ISIL.

That’s strange – for more than one reason.  I’ve heard a lot lately that, in the US, “foreign affairs are the purview of the president, not Congress,” and that Congress does not have the right to invite a Middle Eastern leader absent the administration’s blessing.

Now, just what were those Senators doing, conversing with a foreign leader, unchaperoned by a State Department official?

I have also heard lately that the head of state of a country that is a friend of the US – especially a country that receives significant American aid – should dummy up about any criticism that he might have regarding the administration.  To do otherwise (so we’ve been told lately) is contrary to “protocol,” and runs the risk of “politicizing” bilateral relations.

But there were no such outcries last week when King Abdullah came to Capitol Hill.

Could it be that some other leader is the victim of a double standard?

We’ve also heard lately that it is okay for an American president to refuse to meet with a visiting head of state when the president is concerned about “influencing” an upcoming election in the foreign country.

That’s funny. I didn’t hear any objections to King Abdullah’s capturing a lot of headlines back home from his Washington trip – in which he met not only with congressional leaders but also with President Obama.  Nobody seemed to think that the King’s Washington trip was designed to give him an advantage in the upcoming Jordanian elections.

Oops – I forgot.  There are no Jordanian elections.  Abdulla is a monarch, as were his daddy and his grandpa.

Now I get it.  Under the administration’s reasoning, a leader of a foreign democracy is persona non grata in Washington when there’s an election on the horizon, lest the administration be accused of favoritism, but a friendly monarch is always welcome.

Team Obama would have us believe that it’s all in the name of neutrality.  Nonsense.  Every American administration since Reagan has (either openly or quietly) opposed the Likud party whenever there has been an Israeli election.  (The only possible exception was George W. Bush with Ariel Sharon, and his Likud credentials post-2001 were questionable.)

This is not the first time that Netanyahu has seen a second term president attempt to unseat him.  In 1999, when Netanyahu was running (for the first time) for reelection, the Clinton Team, starring James Carville, was put to work on behalf of Ehud Barak and the Labor Party.

Unlike the recent screams that House Speaker John Boehner was inappropriately trying to “interfere” with the upcoming Israeli elections by inviting the Prime Minister to speak, there were no calls in 1999 for the Clinton administration to keep its hands off Israeli politics.

Simply put, American politicians who are anti-Netanyahu are happy to meddle in Israeli politics when they think that their meddling can obtain the desired result.

The hypocrisy is almost funny – were it not for the fact that these are life-and-death issues.  The first Iranian nuclear missiles will be directed at Israel, and the Netanyahu government is doing what any government should do – make the security of its country the number one priority.

The latest out of Washington is that former Speaker Nancy Pelosi is arranging for an informal boycott of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to Congress.  Such a boycott would not only be unprecedented in US-Israeli relations, but it would also be unprecedented in the history of American foreign relations.  Congress members don’t boycott addresses from foreign leaders – no matter how the speaking invitation was arranged.

Pelosi’s plans are dangerous for the Democrats.  She should be reminded that, 40 years ago, when the United Nations General Assembly voted to equate Zionism with racism, the Zionist Organization of America published a small pamphlet Entitled “Know Who Your Friends Are.”  The pamphlet consisted of four lists, showing how member states of the UN voted on that infamous UN resolution – in favor, opposed, abstaining, and absent.  Congresswoman Pelosi is inviting the ZOA (or some other organization) to take note of those members of Congress who heed the call to boycott a speech by the Israeli Prime Minister.  Hopefully her fellow Democrats will have the foresight to ensure that the “absent” list is very short.

About the Author
Eric S. Sherby is an American-Israeli lawyer, specializing in international litigation and arbitration, at the firm of Sherby & Co., Advs., which he founded in 2004. For ten years, he was the Chair of the International Litigation Department of Yigal Arnon & Co. He serves as a Vice Chair of the ABA's International Litigation Committee.