[guest post by Dana]
It’s amazing how much power Benjamin Netanyahu has over Democrats: Crying the sky is falling, the sky is falling, Senior Democrats are fretting about whether they should attend his speech before Congress next month. It’s an amusing but not surprising conundrum. After the outrage over Boehner extending the invitation and Netanyahu’s subsequent acceptance, it was inevitable that Democrats would find themselves in a pickle. You can fairly hear the frantic wheels collectively churning: If we don’t attend the speech, it will look like we have turned our backs on Israel and certainly look like we’re still pouting along with you-know-who… But if we do attend, then it will look like we aren’t standing with the president, and then we will all be in trouble. Of course, the president, who is still nursing a grudge against Boehner for having the audacity to find his backbone, will not be meeting with Netanyahu. And Joe Biden is aimlessly wandering around the Observatory waiting for a decision regarding his attendance. Yes, the Democrats are in a pickle because of what one man’s presence and what he might say:
High-ranking Democrats are weighing a boycott of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress next month, complaining that it’s a politicized event meant to embarrass President Obama and boost Netanyahu back home before a March 17 election.
Senators are railing against both Boehner and Netanyahu’s upcoming visit even as they try to plan their next move with regard to his scheduled speech:
The group, including long-standing backers of Israel such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), is outraged that House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) maneuvered to invite Netanyahu to speak before a joint session of Congress without consulting Obama, White House officials or Secretary of State John F. Kerry.
“My concern is that it’s obviously political, and it uses the backdrop of the United States House of Representatives, and the Senate and the House, two weeks before a political campaign, and violates all the protocol that’s always existed in terms of working this out with the president,” Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Wednesday.
Sen. Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Democrat in Senate leadership, said that many rank-and-file Democrats want to skip the address to show their support for Obama and to oppose what they consider a blatantly political move by Republicans and Netanyahu. Durbin said Democrats are discussing how they would behave during the address so that they would not be viewed by an international audience as overtly supporting Netanyahu’s election or undercutting talks with Iran.
“They’ve been talking to me about what is the right way to react to what could turn out to be a divisive event,” Durbin said, indicating that even as a member of leadership he has not decided whether to attend. “I haven’t made up my mind.”
Of course, Durbin doesn’t see a boycott of the event as a divisive action….
Further, Feinstein may be outraged that Netanyahu is coming a month before Israel’s election, but why didn’t it bother her when President Obama went to India to meet with political leaders there during a heated 10 days prior to the Delhi election? And, what about President Clinton hosting Shimon Peres at the White House just one month before the election he faced with… Benjamin Netanyahu? Where was the outrage from Democrats then? The company line from the White House steering clear of elections in other countries, especially Israel, is weak soup at best.
Of course, with the sensitive negotiations about Iran’s nuclear program currently taking place and Obama desperate for a deal – any deal – and Republicans wanting stronger sanctions, the last thing Democrats need is for Netanyahu to upset the fragile balancing act. Heaven forbid he describe the country that wants to wipe Israel off the face of the earth as something less than honorable in the negotiations or calls them flat-out liars. Further, given the massacre in France, the recent beheadings and the fate of the Jordanian pilot, there is also the risk that Netanyahu will discuss the need to directly address the issue of terrorism and the need to Kill The Enemy. And worst of all, what if he uses the “I” word to describe said terrorists! And you think the Democrats are stressed now…