The White House and congressional Democrats are beginning to put more heat on House Speaker John Boehner to rescind his invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress on Iran while the administration is in talks with Tehran over a deal to limit its nuclear program.
Boehner has drawn sharp criticism from administration officials and some pro-Israel groups for meddling in the highly sensitive negotiations by inviting Netanyahu — an arch opponent of the talks — to make his case against them in an address to members of Congress on March 3. Netanyahu faces reelection in mid-March, and his speech could have the dual effects of enhancing his standing back home while undercutting President Obama’s foreign policy towards Iran.
The Obama administration is furious that Netanyahu accepted Boehner’s invitation without consulting first with the White House, The New York Times reported on Thursday. An unnamed senior adviser complained to the Times that Ron Dermer — the Israeli ambassador who helped orchestrate the speech — had put Netanyahu's political fortunes above the relationship between Israel and the U.S.
At the same time, a group of House Democrats headed by Reps. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, Steve Cohen of Tennessee and Maxine Waters of California is circulating a letter formally requesting that Boehner postpone Netanyahu’s appearance until after the March deadline for completion of the nuclear talks. “As members of Congress who support Israel, it appears that you are using a foreign leader as a political tool against the president,” the letter states.
Boehner has dismissed the criticisms and said that Congress has a right to hear from foreign leaders. “The House of Representatives is an equal branch of the government, and we have a right to do it, and we did it,” the Ohio Republican told reporters earlier this week after a closed door meeting with House Republicans.
In a subsequent interview with Fox News, Boehner said that Netanyahu can also talk with some expertise about the growing threat of radical Islam. “We’ve got a serious problem in the world and the president just wants to act like it’s going to just disappear,” Boehner said.
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