In an unusually harsh attack by an American politician on an Israeli prime minister, former Vermont governor and Democratic chairman Howard Dean lambasted Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, describing him as “a disaster” whose decision to address Congress in March was “a stupid thing to do that has harmed U.S.-Israeli relations greatly.”
“I don’t trust Netanyahu. I think he’s not served Israel well,” Dean added.
In an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe program, the outspoken Dean, who was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, said, “It’s outrageous what’s going on. Imagine Obama going to Israel two weeks before the elections and giving a speech to the Knesset where he told the Israelis how they should run their foreign policy. I think [Republican House Speaker John] Boehner was just trying to get some political advantage. I think he made a mistake but the guy who really made a mistake was Netanyahu by accepting. I think it was a really stupid thing to do and I think he’s harmed U.S.-Israeli relations greatly.”
Dean’s strident tone is indicative of the escalating rhetoric being directed at Netanyahu in recent weeks in the wake of his decision to accept Boehner’s invitation to address Congress on March 3 about the impending nuclear deal with Iran. Dean is widely viewed as a leading spokesman of the leftist wing of the Democratic party, which has been growing increasingly critical of Israel in recent years. Perhaps significantly, he hails from Vermont, whose two senators, Democrat Patrick Leahy and Independent Bernie Sanders, have been the only two to formally announce that they will boycott Netanyahu’s speech.
Also appearing on Morning Joe was Rep. Peter King, a Republican Congressman from New York, who staunchly defended Netanyahu and the speech, while pinning the blame for tensions between Washington and Jerusalem on Obama’s shoulders. “Israel has been a bipartisan issue, but this administration has been hostile to Netanyahu since 2009, when there was a suggestion of moral equivalency between Israel and the Palestinians as well as the snubs that have been given to Netanyahu.”
“But apart from that we are now racing to an agreement with Iran,” King added, “and it’s important for the American people to hear his version of why he thinks it’s wrong. Israel is threatened by it, and I think having the foremost leader of an ally in the region come and explain why this agreement is dangerous is important to the American people as an educational tool.”
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