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Earl B.
Democrat OR 3

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  • Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Invitation to Speak to a Joint Session of Congress

    by Representative Earl Blumenauer

    Posted on 2015-02-11

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    BLUMENAUER. Mr. Speaker, the scheduled March 3 invitation by Speaker Boehner to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of Congress is wrong on many levels.

    It is a deliberate attempt by the Israeli Prime Minister and the Speaker of the House to undercut an effort at a diplomatic solution to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power. This is calculated to occur at a very sensitive stage in talks to reach a potential agreement to limit Iran's nuclear ambitions. Undercutting that diplomatic option is wrong for the United States. It undermines our efforts to smooth choppy waters at a time when we are deeply concerned with ISIS, Hezbollah, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria. The potential of being able to work with Iran beyond the nuclear weapons issue is important for trying to manage many of the world's most explosive problems.

    It is impossible to fully comprehend the next steps if we undercut this diplomatic effort. Why give Iran an excuse to blame the United States for a failure of negotiations and play to their hard-liners, who don't want any agreement that would contain their efforts to build nuclear weapons? There are no other good alternatives. Some of the people most eager to ultimately use military force against Iran are the same people who were so enthusiastic about going to war with Iraq. The fallout of the war with Iran would likely be as bad or worse at a time of upheaval in this troubled region.

    There are other critical issues besides the negotiations with Iran. It is outrageous to think that Israel or any country would use Congress as a prop for their highly contested domestic elections. This proposed speech would be right in the middle of a short and heated Israeli election. It is unseemly and counterproductive. One has only to look at Netanyahu's television commercials from his last election--and how he used his appearance before Congress--to see where this is going.

    Finally, there is the issue of respect for the Office of the President and the responsibility to conduct foreign policy. I can't imagine what the reaction would have been if Speaker Nancy Pelosi had offered French President Sarkozy an opportunity to lecture Republicans and George Bush about our disastrous policy in Iraq. Republicans would have been apoplectic.

    This is not good for Israel either. It is creating a backlash at home for Netanyahu. It is creating heartburn for some of the strongest supporters of Israel in Congress, and it is straining the relationship between the administration and the Government of Israel. This drama is coming at a time when the majority of Israelis think their country is headed in the wrong direction, when Netanyahu does not have the majority support of his countrymen, when the election is quite close, with a significant number of undecided voters; and polls tell us a majority of Israelis think this speech is a bad idea.

    It is unnecessary; it is unfortunate; and it is a bad precedent. Joint sessions involving heads of state and other world leaders should advance American interests and be a positive expression of our values and our opportunities, not a partisan or an ideological device. This proposed speech fails that test. The invitation should be withdrawn or rescheduled, or the Israeli Prime Minister, himself, should reconsider. I, for one, have no intention of being part of dignifying this blatant political act with my presence, because it is not good for Congress; it is not good for Israel; and it is not good for the United States.


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