It’s probably too late to change anyone’s mind, but it’s never too late to drive home a point that needs to be made.
Israeli Benjamin Netanyahu’s audience as he speaks to a joint session of Congress this week will be missing about 30 congressional Democrats, who’ve decided to boycott the speech for a couple of reasons.
One is that House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation of Netanyahu was done without consulting the White House. What’s more, Boehner wants the United States to impose sanctions on Iran, which is negotiating with other nations on a possible deal to end its nuclear development; Netanyahu is expected to make that case during his speech to Congress — which the White House doesn’t want to happen.
The other is that the invitation injects the United States into Israeli politics, given that Netanyahu’s governing coalition is facing an election shortly. President Obama has said it’s inappropriate to invite a foreign head of government to make such a speech so close to an election in his or her country.
Democrats shouldn’t boycott the speech. They should sit there, applaud politely, listen to Netanyahu and then decide whether they agree with whatever he says.
U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., said, “I will not dignify it by being here. It is an unfortunate incursion into Israeli politics.”
“As a long-time supporter of the U.S-Israel relationship, I believe the timing of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address to Congress — just days before Israeli elections — is highly inappropriate,” U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said in a statement. “I am disappointed that, as of now, the speech has not been postponed. For this reason, I will not attend the speech.”
I don’t think Boehner’s invitation was appropriate, either. I also disagree with the idea of imposing sanctions at the very time we’re seeking a negotiated settlement on whether Iran should pursue its nuclear program. Let the negotiations run their course; if they fail, then drop the sanctions hammer.
But the Israeli prime minister is a key U.S. ally — the current spat notwithstanding. His standing among world leaders compels his foes to sit and listen to his message.
Having said all that, it’s good to know that the absent lawmakers will have access to TV, radio and the Internet to hear the prime minister’s remarks.
Be sure to listen.