Republican U.S. Speaker John Boehner to Visit Israel Two Weeks After Netanyahu’s Victory

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Netanyahu and House Speaker Boehner on Capitol Hill in Washington, 2011.Credit: AP

Speaker of the United States House of Representatives John Boehner is expected to visit Israel in about a week. Boehner, a member of the Republican Party, is U.S. President Barack Obama’s arch rival and the man who invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make his controversial speech in Congress. 

Senior Israeli officials who asked to remain anonymous said Boehner will begin his visit, which has not yet been announced publicly, on March 31, heading a delegation of Republican Congress members. The officials said the final agreement for the visit was given during Netanyahu’s trip to the United States some two weeks ago.

Boehner and Israel’s ambassador in Washington, Ron Dermer, had arranged Netanyahu’s speech in Congress behind the back of the White House. Boehner publicly admitted that he had explicitly asked Dermer not to tell the White House about the arrangements for Netanyahu’s invitation. A day before the invitation was reported, Secretary of State John Kerry visited Dermer at the latter’s home but Dermer didn’t mention the matter.

The American administration was furious that Netanyahu held talks with Boehner without the White House’s knowledge. The anger stemmed mainly from the fact that the speech to Congress, delivered two weeks before the Israeli election, was seen as a political move. It was also regarded as a bid on Netanyahu’s part to intervene in American politics, by sabotaging the nuclear agreement the administration is negotiating with Iran.

Although Boehner’s visit was planned before the election, it will be a sort of “victory celebration” for Netanyahu and he is expected to be received with great honor.

The crisis between the White House and Netanyahu over the prime minister's speech to Congress flared up again a day after the election with a series of White House press briefings to Haaretz’s Peter Beinart, the New York Times and other media. The main message was that the damage Netanyahu caused Israel-U.S. relations is serious and that if Netanyahu is interested in repairing it he must take concrete steps like replacing Ambassador Dermer.

Netanyahu yesterday attempted to send public conciliatory messages to Obama. In an interview with NBC he said that his speech in Congress two weeks ago was not intended to show disrespect to the president. He said the ties between Israel and the United States were strong and that “America has no greater ally than Israel and Israel has no greater ally than the United States.”

Netanyahu said the two countries can have many differences but can work together as allies. “There are so many areas where we must work together, will work together with the United States, and the president, because we have no other alternative,” he said.

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