Israeli Politicians Demand That Netanyahu Cancel Congress Speech

Leaders of the country's center-left parties criticize premier's intention to address U.S. Congress as election ploy that will harm Israel.

Bloomberg

Leaders of the country's center-left parties on Saturday sharply attacked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's intention to address a joint sitting of the United States Congress before the elections.

They spoke only hours after U.S. Vice President Joe Biden joined a growing list of American lawmakers who have announced that they will not be present for the speech.

Biden's office said that he would be on a pre-arranged trip abroad.

Zionist Camp co-leader Isaac Herzog called on Netanyahu to cancel the planned address "for the sake of Israel's security."

Speaking to world leaders at a global security conference in Munich, Herzog said that the planned speech "endangers the citizens of Israel and the special relationship between Israel and the U.S."

"With all respect for his [election] campaign, Netanyahu must act as an Israeli patriot and not throw Israel's security under the wheels of the elections bus," Herzog said.

Zionist Camp co-leader Tzipi Livni said that Biden's announcement shows how Netanyahu "thinks of his personal good, rather than of the good of the country." The premier, she added, regards the deterioration of relations with the U.S. as reason to laugh.

Former Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich, who was participating in a Saturday forum at the Khan Theater in Jerusalem alongside Livni, said that the country was experiencing a "rolling diplomatic terror attack" in which even the Fox News channel had come out against Netanyahu.

The premier, she said, had "stuck a finger into the eye" of U.S. President Barak Obama. She called on Netanyahu to decline the invitation to appear before Congress, describing it as "a dubious political bonus which is causing a deep rift with the American administration."

Were Netanyahu to reverse his decision to address Congress, the Zionist Camp would not use it for political capital during the election campaign, Yacimovich vowed.

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid told a forum in Kiryat Bialik that Netanyahu was "causing great damage" to Israel's strategic relationship with the U.S."

"Bibi has succeeded in alienating the White House and now half of Congress," he said. "It's a political act aimed only at garnering a few more votes in the elections."

Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On also called on Netanyahu to cancel the speech. "Not only does it harm Israeli-American relations, it also harms Israel's ability to influence the Iranian issue," Gal-On said.

"Every day that Netanyahu insists on going ahead with the speech and ignores the warnings of Israeli diplomats in the U.S. regarding the effect on moderate Jewish Americans creates irreparable damage to Israel's relations with the U.S."