The upcoming speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a joint session of Congress is taking an interesting — and unfortunate — turn.
Some leading Democratic lawmakers say they’re going to stay away from the March 3 speech. They won’t hear what Bibi has to say to them, including whether to impose stricter sanctions on Iran while the U.S. is leading a negotiating effort to end Iran’s nuclear program.
Vice President Biden won’t attend; his office said the VP will be traveling abroad when Netanyahu speaks to the joint session. I can’t help but wonder: Did the vice president schedule the overseas trip before or after Netanyahu’s speech was scheduled?
Don’t go there, Democrats.
Yes, Netanyahu is wrong to have accepted the invitation from Republican House Speaker John Boehner — who also was wrong to invite him without advising the White House. What’s more, Netanyahu is wrong to pressure Congress to act over the objections of the White House, which believes increasing sanctions now would undermine its efforts to disarm the Islamic Republic of Iran.
But is staying away from the speech the right approach to protesting? I’m inclined to think Democrats ought to hear — in person — what the prime minister has to say. They don’t have to stand and cheer when he delivers an applause line; Republicans undoubtedly will do enough cheering to fill the House chamber.
Come on, Netanyahu is the head of government of a leading U.S. ally, after all, and he deserves an audience — even if the invitation he accepted was not in keeping with American diplomatic and political tradition.