Update: Politico is reporting that Vice President Joe Biden will be out of town when Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is scheduled to come to Washington to address a joint session of Congress, March 3.
The vice president’s office on Friday confirmed the plans to skip the March 3 speech.
“We are not ready to announce details of his trip yet, and normally our office wouldn’t announce this early, but the planning process has been underway for a while,” a spokesperson for the office said.
Amazing. This will give permission to a lot of Democrats to make other plans and will embarrass the rightwing prime minister. Even as various Jewish organizations are saying they are going to be collecting the names of those who don’t show up. This is a big name alright!
Original post: Let’s keep the pot boiling over the scandal of Netanyahu’s planned speech to a joint session of Congress to push the U.S. to attack Iran, why don’t we?
The latest news is that there are now a handful of Democratic congressmen who say they won’t attend the speech, but the Democratic leadership is trying to hold the line on defections. The Democrats don’t want a wedge driven between the parties over their love for Israel. So while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says the invitation to Netanyahu was a mistake and the speech ought to be cancelled, she also said yesterday she’s going to attend the speech. No one should be using the word “boycott” about the Democratic leadership!
“I don’t think anybody should use the word ‘boycott,'” Pelosi said in her weekly press conference.
Boycott was the word of the day yesterday, re the Democratic leadership’s anger over the speech.
Pelosi says the speech is so awful that “maybe we need to review the idea” of foreign leaders giving speeches to joint sessions of Congress. But in her remarks (at 1:15 here), you will see that her entire concern is the U.S. meddling in Israeli politics — Netanyahu’s campaign ahead of the March 17 elections — and not a word about Israel and its lobby meddling in our Iran policy. No, that’s just fine.
We have great friendships in terms of country to country, leaders to leaders; it’s really something that we should be able to resolve. Maybe we have to even review the idea of joint sessions of congress because they should not be a political arena two weeks before an election. Some people just think it’s outrageous. Some staunch supporters of Israel call me and tell me, it’s outrageous– and they’re supporters of Netanyahu– that our floor of the House would be used, exploited in that way, for a political purpose, in Israel and the United States.”
So you have to be a staunch supporter of Israel to object to the speech. Netanyahu also is worried about the political fallout. He’s now saying he was hornswoggled by Boehner. He thought that the invitation came from Democrats too.
We’ve compiled a list of five Democrats who say they won’t attend: Jim McGovern, Jim McDermott, John Lewis, Earl Blumenauer, G.K. Butterfield. The Guardian says three prominent Dems, Blumenauer, Butterfield, Lewis. And that Pelosi is saying others may also have “diary clashes,” when Netanyahu shows up. AP interviews Lewis and Butterfield.
Two prominent House Democrats said Thursday they will skip Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress next month, saying they disapprove of House Speaker John Boehner’s decision to invite the Israeli leader without consulting the White House.
Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, a hero of the civil rights movement, and Rep. G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said they won’t attend Netanyahu’s March 3 speech.
“I think it’s an affront to the president and the State Department what the speaker did,” by not consulting the White House, Lewis said in an interview.
Butterfield said he was “very disappointed that the speaker would cause such a ruckus” among members of Congress. He called the speaker’s actions “unprecedented.”
Note that Lewis and Butterfield are leaders in the African-American community. Butterfield, 67, represents a rural district in eastern North Carolina that is mostly black. The Almanac of American Politics calls him “an important behind the scenes strategist for both the Democratic leadership and the Congressional Black Caucus.”
Chris Matthews revisited the issue on MSNBC last night. He again characterized the issue as a controversy over the U.S. putting its thumb on the scale of Israeli politics, and insisted that Israelis are better than Netanyahu. “You can go to Israel and argue about anything over there. It’s a very free country,” he said. And Netanyahu leads a rightwing bloc: “He’s not speaking for the average Jewish person living in Israel, he just isn’t.”
That’s a fantasy. As Kenneth Vogel of Politico pointed out to Matthews, Netanyahu “is speaking for the lion’s share” of Jewish Israelis. Matthews then doubted that the “average Israeli” (i.e., Jewish) is for “bomb’s away” on Iran. Sorry, Chris, but 95 percent of Jewish Israelis supported the onslaught on Gaza.
It fell to Republican Michael Steele to say that the “substance” of the Netanyahu speech is an effort to interfere in our politics, an effort Steele evidently supports. The speech is about “what we’re doing with Iran, what the administration is failing to do with Iran.”
Israelis are very uncomfortable with that. The global partnerships that we have are saying, You can’t trust these guys [Iran]… This is an opportunity to put the stake in that particular heart, the US negotiating.
Put a stake in the heart of U.S. negotiations! But what’s the alternative to negotiation, Matthews asked wisely. If we struck Iran we’d have to do so again every two years.
Matthews also brought up the Israel lobby angle. The invitation allows Matt Brooks of the Republican Jewish Coalition to do “Jewish outreach for the Republicans.” I.e., raise money. This is the third time Matthews has brought up the lobby’s inroads in the Republican Party. I assume he’s invited Brooks on, but Brooks won’t touch this one.
On that fundraising point, here’s a fuller explanation. Professor Lawrence Davidson writes that the overture is unconstitutional, and corrupt. Zionist donors wants a confrontation with Iran, but the U.S. people don’t.
Boehner and his fellow Republicans aim to deprive the Democrats of something allegedly important while capturing it for the Republicans. Boehner knows that pro-Israeli lobbies are key political donors, so his aim is to increase their contributions to Republicans and decrease them to Democrats.
If this requires selling out an American president, Boehner is ready to do so. If it means embroiling the American people in yet another Middle East war, he appears ready to do that as well.
In all of this, the wishes of the American people count least of all. Despite years of negative media propaganda about Iran, polls indicate that most Americans support President Obama’s diplomatic efforts. Boehner appears not to care.
Nonetheless, as with Eric Cantor, no one in the Democratic ranks is willing to respect that popular judgment by openly challenging Boehner on his unconstitutional behavior. That is because the Democratic Party is as enamored of Zionist money as are the Republicans.
Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi, now the House minority leader, should be jumping up and down and screaming her head off about John Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu. Yet all she has said is that it breaks protocol and might harm talks with Iran. But, she has refused to say that the invitation should be withdrawn.
Netanyahu was invited by the Republican speaker of the house, John Boehner, to address Congress on March 3, an invitation Boehner originally described as bipartisan.
Jon Stewart skirted the issue last night. Very weak. The joke was about the White House’s hypocrisy in claiming it doesn’t want to interfere in Israeli domestic politics.
“Yes!” Stewart exclaimed. “America doesn’t wanna meddle in a Middle Eastern nation’s domestic politics. I mean, we don’t do that!”
But again, who cares about Israeli politics? I care about who’s meddling in our politics. MJ Rosenberg is caustic:
In America, even Jon Stewart goes easy on the prophet Netanyahu.
Rosenberg also says that Netanyahu is miscalculating; he believes a Republican or Hillary Clinton will be elected in 2016 “& go to war with Iran for him. Not going to happen.” (OK, and why did we go to war with Iraq?) But he adds:
Do not kid yourselves. If Israel bombed Tehran tomorrow, the Democrats would be first to rush to House & Senate floor to demand we join in.
On that note, here is an excellent letter from several Oregon groups calling on all their congresspeople to follow Earl Blumenauer’s example and declare they won’t attend the speech. Not because of domestic politics or Israeli politics, but because of war.
We, the undersigned organizations, commend Oregon’s U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer for asking House Speaker John Boehner to cancel an invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress. Rep. Blumenauer has stated that if the speech is not cancelled, he will refuse to attend. We implore all the members of Congress from Oregon to follow his example.
Our objections to the Netanyahu invitation go beyond the fact that: a.) This invitation is a breach of protocol, b.) It is a stunt timed just prior to a very close Israeli election and c.) It is an attempt by the Republican-controlled Congress to embarrass President Barack Obama.
The most serious objection to the invitation is that Netanyahu is attempting to scuttle negotiations between the United States and Iran regarding Iran’s nuclear program by urging Congress to impose additional sanctions on Iran. As Rep. Blumenauer states, the only solution in the best interests of all countries is a negotiated settlement. Why would Mr. Netanyahu be invited to thwart that effort? World leaders also recognize the danger of his address as interference with the diplomatic process and are also imploring that he not interfere.
Additional sanctions risk an end to the diplomatic path and an increase in tensions between our country and Iran that may lead to war.
Among the signatories to the letter: “Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights, Friends of Sabeel North America, Individuals for Justice, Jewish Voice for Peace-Portland Chapter, Lutherans for Justice in the Holy Land, Mission of the Atonement Holy Land Ministry, Oregon Fellowship of Reconciliation, Tree of Life Educational Fund-West Coast, Veterans for Peace Chapter 72.” Good on ya.
Hashtag is #SkiptheSpeech.
Thanks to Annie Robbins.