Ahead of his trip to Israel this week during the congressional recess, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) criticized the Obama administration Sunday for its treatment of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“I think the animosity exhibited by our administration toward the prime minister of Israel is reprehensible,” Boehner said during an interview on CNN’s State of the Union.
The speaker’s comments follow White House criticism of Netanyahu for remarks the prime minister made just days before his reelection suggesting he no longer supported a Palestinian peace deal. The Obama administration released a statement immediately afterward, saying it would “reassess” its relationship with Israel while reiterating its commitment to a two-state solution.
Netanyahu ultimately switched his position after he won reelection.
Boehner said he didn’t think there was anything wrong with the prime minister’s flip.
“He doesn’t have a partner. How do you have a two-state solution when you don’t have a partner in that solution, when you don’t have a partner for peace, when the other state has vowed to wipe you off the face of the earth?” Boehner said to CNN’s Dana Bash. “So until there’s a willing partner, willing to sit down and have peace talks, I think it’s irrelevant whether we’re talking about a two-state solution.”
Boehner’s comments come nearly one month after he invited Netanyahu to speak to Congress without informing the White House. The speech – which focused on threats to Israel from Iran’s nuclear program – was seen by many as a snub to the White House, which is trying to foster a nuclear deal with Tehran before the looming March 31 deadline.
The speaker said his trip to Israel this week was planned months before Netanyahu came to Washington and should not be considered a “victory lap” for the prime minister. Other Republicans are also visiting Israel during the recess, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
“There are serious issues and activities going on in the Middle East and I think it’s critically important for members of Congress to hear from foreign leaders, other governments, other parts of their government to get a real handle on the challenges we face there.”
Boehner expressed serious doubts about the ability of the U.S. to reach a nuclear deal with Iran before the end-of-March deadline. He said if negotiations fail, the U.S. should move fast to impose tough sanctions on Iran.
“The sanctions are going to come, and they’re going to come quick,” Boehner said.
Other lawmakers also doubt the progress of the negotiations. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the administration should push for a deadline extension.
“Now is the time to push back from the table and ask ourselves, Is it really time to trust the people that we’re negotiating with, the Iranians?” Burr said on CBS’s Face the Nation. He added, “I would encourage the administration, Let’s take more time. Let’s not hasten to a deal.”
While little is known about the exact framework negotiators are working on, it likely involves rolling back some sanctions against Iran.
Boehner also said Sunday morning, “When you begin to see all these leaks that probably came out of the White House in terms of what the Iranian deal was starting to shape up to be, there’s a lot of concern in Congress on a bipartisan basis. I’m glad he [Netanyahu] was here, and frankly the speech that he gave was the clearest speech I’ve heard in 25 years about the real threats that face our country.”
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