Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accepted an invitation to address a joint session of Congress, and it’s already proving more controversial than one might expect. The invitation was extended by Republican House Speaker John Boehner, and was accepted by Netanyahu without consulting Democratic President Barack Obama, and although parties claim to be loyal friends of Israel this seems to be a problem.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest complained to reporters on Wednesday that “the protocol would suggest that the leader of one country would contact the leader of another country when he’s traveling there,” adding that the administration would “reserve judgment” on the matter until further consultation with the invitee, but recent history suggests that there’s more involved than just the usual diplomatic niceties. There’s a longstanding iciness between Obama and Netanyahu, after all, not to mention the even more frigid relationship between Obama and the congressional Republicans.
Vice President Joe Biden was reiterating as recently as Tuesday that America’s support for the Jewish state is “unyielding,” but in the same speech he was grousing once again that the Israelis are building 1,600 new apartments in their capital of Jerusalem. The administration has been critical of Israel building apartments for years, with a vehemence it can’t seem to muster about Iran building nuclear bombs with the stated intention of achieving a second Holocaust by wiping Israel off the map, and they’ve also been explicitly miffed about Israel’s annoying habit of deploying its military against the terrorist armies that intermittently lob rockets at Israeli civilians or sending murderers through the tunnels they’ve dug into Israeli territory. This infuriating tendency of Israel to defend its citizens against radical Islamist enemies has so annoyed the president that he has skipped long-planned dinner dates to leave Netanyahu cooling his heels in the White House, and authorized an unnamed official to describedwhich some might consider a breach of protocol, and left a distinct impression that the administration’s support of Israel is at least somewhat yielding.
The administration’s recurring explanation is that those relatively few new apartment buildings, which might soon be needed to house the flood of Jewish refugees from the increasingly Islamicized France where the administration recently declined to send any high-ranking officials to a march protesting the latest terror attacks on its soil, are interfering with the administration’s futile efforts to negotiate a peace between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors, whose government includes a Hamas party that has openly vowed to kill every Jew in the Middle East since long before the first cement was poured, but one might suspect there’s more to it than that. Israel’s stubborn insistence on self-preservation has also interfered with the administration’s attempts to convince a broader range of Islamist terrorists that America means them no offense, and Netanyahu’s more robust resistance to Islamist terrorism provides what many Americans would regard as an embarrassing contrast to recent American policy.
Such geo-political matters aside, though, the controversy seems to have more to do with domestic politics. The mainstream media assumption seems to be that Boehner extended the invitation to emphasize that contrast between Netanyahu’s and Obama’s stands on Islamist terrorism, and although Boehner insists he didn’t mean it as a “poke in the eye” of the administration we hope that he is merely being coy. If there’s one thing the president dislikes more than the Israelis it is the Republicans, a point made all the more obvious by Tuesday’s State of the Union address that made no mention of the terrorist threat while proposing a variety of soak-the-rich and hand-out-free-stuff proposals that he clearly hopes will cost the GOP political points when they inevitably refuse to pass any of it, and giving the world’s most fearless resister to Islamist terrorism a national platform seems a rather shrewd way countering the tactic by highlighting the GOP’s more robust foreign policy preferences. The speech is planned for the anniversary of an Islamist regime’s takeover of Iran, an historical catastrophe ushered in by the Democrat Jimmy Carter’s presidential administration, a nice touch that reminds the public about the current administration’s futile negotiations over that country’s nuclear power ambitions, and will likely be an effective poke in the administration’s clouded eye whether it was intended as such as not.
Netanyahu is a remarkably persuasive orator in both Hebrew and English, and a shrewd political player in both languages in as well, and we’ll be looking forward to the speech. We’re sure the administration won’t nearly so eager to hear it, and will continue to complain about breaches of diplomatic protocol, but that will only make it all the sweeter.
— Bud Norman