ADL's Abe Foxman to Netanyahu: Cancel Congress Speech

The national director of the Anti Defamation League says the uproar ignited by the PM's invitation to speak makes such a move unhelpful.

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Netanyahu after addressing a joint meeting of Congress in Washington, May 24, 2011.
Netanyahu after addressing a joint meeting of Congress in Washington, May 24, 2011.Credit: Reuters

As the controversy surrounding Benjamin Netanyahu speech to Congress reaches new heights, one of the Jewish community’s top leaders is calling on the Israeli prime minister to stay home.

Abrahm Foxman, national director of the Anti Defamation League said that the political uproar ignited by Netanyahu’s invitation to speak to a joint meeting of Congress makes such a move unhelpful and therefore it should be scrapped.

“It’s a tragedy of unintended consequences,” Foxman told the Forward, describing how the idea of presenting Israel’s view on Iran spiraled out of control, reaching even the John Stewart show, a step, Foxman said, that “turned the whole thing into a circus.”

“One needs to restart, and it needs a mature adult statement that this was not what we intended,” Foxman told the Forward. He said that going ahead as planned with the speech would be counter-productive, with all attention given to the political controversy rather than to the issue at stake. “It has been hijacked by politics,” Foxman said. “Now is a time to recalibrate, restart and find a new platform and new timing to take away the distractions.”

Foxman noted that he does not dispute the seriousness of the Iranian nuclear issue and that he agrees with Netanyahu on the need to strengthen sanctions against Tehran, but he argued that recent events have derailed the initial intention of Netanyahu’s address to Congress.

Among the potential alternatives mentioned by Foxman for Netanyahu’s congressional speech were coming to Washington only for the AIPAC conference, postponing his address until after the March 17 elections in Israel, or expressing his concerns over the emerging Iran deal in direct conversations.

Earlier on Friday, the White House announced Vice President Joe Biden, who is also the president of the Senate, will not attend the speech, because he will be travelling out of the country. The statement did not specify Biden’s destination.

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