Democrats in Letter to House Leader: Postpone Netanyahu's Speech

More than 20 Democrats sign letter, say Boehner is using 'a foreign leader as a political tool.'

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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

A group of almost two dozen liberal Democrats have signed a letter to the leader of the U.S. House of Representatives asking him to postpone Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address to a joint meeting of Congress next month.

Netanyahu's speech is controversial because it comes as the Obama administration is negotiating with Iran over that country's nuclear program and just two weeks before Netanyahu faces voters for re-election.

The address is slated for March 3. Netanyahu is expected to extend his warning of the dangers inherent in allowing Iran to acquire nuclear-weapons capability. House Speaker John Boehner did not consult with the White House before inviting Israel's prime minister.

The Democrats say that Boehner "appears to be using a foreign leader as a political tool."

The letter was written by Democratic Reps. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, Steve Cohen of Tennessee and Maxine Waters of California and was signed by 20 other Democrats.

A snow-plough cleans the snow in front of the U.S. Congress building in Washington DC on February 16, 2015. Credit: AFP

Also on Thursday, the National Iranian American Council took out a full-page advertisement in The New York Times slamming the planned speech to Congress by Israel’s prime minister.

“Will Congress side with our president or a foreign leader?” reads the ad in Thursday’s edition. “President Obama is on the verge of a diplomatic victory that will prevent war and prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. But Congressional hawks are bringing Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to Capitol Hill to push for new sanctions that could kill the talks and start a war.”

In the ad, a figure identified as House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner fills out a mock multiple-choice quiz, choosing Benjamin Netanyahu over Obama on the question “Who is our Commander in Chief?”

On Wednesday, a poll said almost two-thirds of Americans think Congress should have coordinated its invitation to Netanyahu with the White House, terming the invitation a "bad move."

The invitation was arranged by the speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, the Ohio Republican, and by Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer.

But President Barack Obama was not alerted to the plan until after the invitation was extended.

Responses from the political and media spheres called the move anything from a breach of protocol to a violation of Obama's foreign-policy responsibilities under the U.S. Constitution.

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