In Rare Rebuke, U.S. Democrat Says 'Disappointed' Over Netanyahu's Refusal to Meet

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, a strong supporter of Israel, says Netanyahu refused opportunity to 'balance politically divisive' invitation to address Congress with private meeting with Democrats.

Bloomberg

One of Israel’s strongest supporters in the Democratic Party, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, issued a rare public rebuke to Prime Minister Netanyahu on Wednesday for refusing an invitation to meet with Democratic Senators during his upcoming visit to Congress.

“His refusal to meet is disappointing to those of us who have stood by Israel for decades," Durbin said.

Durbin, who initiated the invitation to Netanyahu along with California Senator Diane Feinstein, said: “We offered the Prime Minister an opportunity to balance the politically divisive invitation from Speaker Boehner with a private meeting with Democrats who are committed to keeping the bipartisan support of Israel strong.”

Durbin and Feinstein had invited Netanyahu to a closed-door meeting with Democratic senators in a letter on Monday, amid tensions over his plans to address the U.S. Congress on Iran's nuclear program.

Netanyahu declined the invitation, writing in response: "Though I greatly appreciate your kind invitation to meet with Democratic Senators, I believe that doing so at this time could compound the misperception of partisanship regarding my upcoming visit."

Feinstein previously told Haaretz that inviting Prime Minister Netanyahu to address Congress during an Israeli election period is “highly inappropriate” and that imposing new sanctions on Iran at this time is “reckless and dangerous.”