The current state of the disagreement concerning PM Netanyahu’s speech to Congress is damaging to bipartisan Israel advocacy with many leaders finding themselves forced to choose between respecting the President and respecting the Israeli Prime Minister, to the US-Israel relationship under this and potentially under future Democratic Presidents because of hostility created now, as well as to addressing the vital security issue of the Iranian nuclear weapons program which is, in theory, the purpose of PM Netanyahu’s speech.
Challenging the President’s policy on Iran need not happen in the House Chamber at all. Significantly damaging Democratic support for Israel and hampering the ability of Democrats to aid in advancing Israeli advocacy generally and for a good deal with Iran specifically must not happen at all. That said, it is time for PM Netanyahu to consider an alternative to speaking before Congress on March 3rd.
Israel lives in a very dangerous neighborhood. The Iranian threats, plural, to Israel’s security, well-being, and even existence are real. It is understandable why the Prime Minister should be concerned about the impact that any nuclear agreement with Iran might have and that Israeli leaders should advocate for the best possible agreement that might be achieved. There is real fear by Israelis of an agreement that leaves Iran as a nuclear threshold state mere months away from clandestinely producing a nuclear weapon in an environment with limited or no real military threats being made against it and limited ability to inspect the many known much less unknown facilities by the nations pledging to prevent it from crossing that threshold.
Yet also a major threat to Israel’s security would be substantially weakened bipartisan support in the US Congress and in the American public generally. The ability to speak about the threat of Iran before Congress should not be accepted at the cost of substantially weakening bipartisan support.
This is why it is time for the Prime Minister to reconsider accepting the invitation to speak before Congress on March 3rd.
However, a word of warning.
The idea that boycotting the Israeli Prime Minister should be acceptable because of American party politics is deeply disturbing. I know of no other national leader who has ever faced such a boycott threat from either political party’s leaders. Israel, Israelis, and Jews are all too often singled out for different treatment both positively and negatively. The fact that the sole time the President of the United States and leaders of a major political party have publicly declared a boycott against attending a speech given to Congress by any nation’s political leader happens to be against the leader of the Jewish state should be of the utmost concern to members of the American Jewish community. If it is in fact the case that disagreement over policy differences justifies claiming insult and then that justifies a boycott, we have entered a new and frightening era for Israel advocacy and for the Jews in America.