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Washington - Angry Over Israeli's Planned Speech, Dems Hope To Limit Harm

Published on: February 7, 2015 08:59 PM
By: AP 
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon visit the IDF Hermon Brigade base.Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon visit the IDF Hermon Brigade base.

Washington - The Israeli prime minister’s upcoming speech to Congress without President Barack Obama’s blessing has angered Democratic lawmakers, but they see little remedy except to hope for minimal damage to their party and to U.S.-Israel relations.

Democrats simmered in frustration last week as they faced a thankless choice between defending their president and defending the Jewish state they consider a crucial ally.

Some gleeful Republicans predicted Democrats’ complaints about Benjamin Netanyahu’s March 3 speech will drive Jewish voters to the GOP. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said Democrats are making a “catastrophic mistake” by protesting Netanyahu’s plans.

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“Traditionally, supporters of Israel have been really even-handed in supporting candidates of both parties,” Wilson said, but now “Democrats are slapping the friends of Israel in the face.”

Democrats reject such talk, saying Republicans have repeatedly overstated their appeal to Jewish voters. Obama got 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008, and 69 percent in 2012, according to exit polls. Congressional Democrats won two-thirds of Jewish votes in last fall’s midterm elections, an especially bad year for their party.

Republicans want to portray Democrats as less supportive of Israel, “but no matter how much they try, they can’t move Jewish voters on this issue,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the liberal pro-Israel group J Street.

House Democrats say Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, showed disrespect to the president — and perhaps cynical political goals — when he invited Netanyahu to address a House-Senate gathering next month. Presidents can’t veto congressional speakers, but they usually are consulted.

Many Democrats object for three reasons: The invitation rebukes Obama; the speech, scheduled three weeks before Israel’s elections, might be designed to boost Netanyahu’s re-election hopes; and Netanyahu is certain to back new sanctions on Iran that the administration and Western powers argue could scuttle sensitive negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.

The speech comes three weeks before the deadline for the U.S. and its international partners to reach a framework nuclear agreement with Iran, one that could provide an outline for a more comprehensive deal to be finalized by late June.

Netanyahu says an accord could make it easier for Iran eventually to develop nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only. Obama says he will reject any deal that doesn’t safeguard Israel and other countries.

Nonetheless, some congressional Democrats want tougher sanctions against Iran. But they weren’t pleased by Netanyahu’s acceptance of Boehner’s invitation. Soon after its announcement, several Democratic senators postponed their push for new sanctions against Iran, giving Obama and the negotiators more time.

Obama’s chief concern about the break in protocol, his spokesman Josh Earnest said, “is to ensure that the strong relationship between the United States and Israel is protected from partisan politics.”

In the House, some Democrats say they won’t attend Netanyahu’s address. The way it was scheduled was “an affront to the president and the State Department,” said Rep. John Lewis of Georgia.

Rep. G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina called Boehner’s actions unprecedented, and said Netanyahu has “politicized” his U.S. visit.

The speaker of the House and the vice president traditionally sit behind the featured guest during a congressional address. But the White House said Friday that Vice President Joe Biden will be traveling abroad that day.

Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York, Congress’ only Jewish Republican, said if lawmakers boycott Netanyahu’s speech, “it’s a horrendous, irresponsible message to send to Israel.” He called Israel “a free, democratic society thriving in an area of the world where radical Islamic extremism is growing most rapidly.”

Zeldin predicted many more Jewish voters will embrace Republicans because of Obama’s policies regarding Israel.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, another critic of the speech’s arrangements, says she will attend. Lawmakers often skip such addresses for different reasons, she said, so even if some seats are empty, “don’t even think in terms of the word ‘boycott.’ Members will go or they won’t go, as they usually go or don’t go.”

Pelosi and other top Democrats have hinted they want Netanyahu to postpone his speech until after Israel’s elections, and/or hold it somewhere other than Congress.

Conservatives see little incentive to do that. Boehner is happy to have Democrats grouse while Israel’s leader addresses a Republican-run Congress, they say. And Netanyahu probably benefits politically by speaking to Congress and criticizing Iran.

Obama and Netanyahu have clashed repeatedly over the years, even though both say a close U.S.-Israel alliance is essential. Only days ago, the White House again criticized Israel’s policy of building Jewish settlements on West Bank and East Jerusalem areas that Palestinians claim.

Obama says a Mideast peace deal must include a Palestinian state based on territory Israel captured in 1967, with “mutually agreed upon swaps” to ensure Israel’s security. Netanyahu rejects a return to those borders, and the Jewish settlements complicate efforts to divide territory.

Obama has no plans to meet with Netanyahu during his U.S. trip.

Numerous U.S. activists and lawmakers predict the quarrel over the March 3 speech will die down soon. There’s no need “to pile on,” even though the speech’s arrangement was a mistake that triggered “a lot of blowback, both in Israel and here,” said Democratic Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont.

Josh Block of the Israel Project said Israel remains broadly popular in America, and “it’s likely we’ll see folks calm down.”



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Read Comments (11)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Feb 07, 2015 at 10:37 PM murray059 Says:

this "J Street" must cease to be called "pro Israel"

2

 Feb 08, 2015 at 08:27 AM Benny Says:

I can't believe that US president and so many congressmen are so petrified of anybody's speach.
Bibi, you must be very good!

3

 Feb 08, 2015 at 08:43 AM Zachor613 Says:

Netanyahu is making z last ditch desperate attempt to warn America about Iran's nuclear program. The American politician's that are more worried about Obama's "feelings" should be ashamed.

4

 Feb 08, 2015 at 08:46 AM Kol Hakavod to Bibi Says:

It's about time that Netanyahu got up the guts, to give Obama what he deserves.

5

 Feb 08, 2015 at 09:10 AM One-Comment Says:

"but no matter how much they try, they can’t move Jewish voters on this issue,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the liberal pro-Israel group J Street."
NOT TRUE!!!!
The Dems have alienated many Democrats and many Independents; Jews and Non-Jews. The thought of Hillary Clinton, (who, like John Kerry, has shown lack of concern for Israel) being elected will force many of us to vote for the Republican Candidates.

6

 Feb 08, 2015 at 11:08 AM Anonymous Says:

"Obama’s chief concern about the break in protocol, his spokesman Josh Earnest said, “is to ensure that the strong relationship between the United States and Israel is protected from partisan politics.”

What a lie! His chief concern is that Bibi will uncover the truth about what Obama is trying to hide from the American people! How his dangerous policies, now particularly lifting sanctions and allowing Iran to go nuclear, will put everyone at risk! If his true concern was protecting the strong relationship with Israel, he wouldn't have dared snubbing Bibi so many times since he took office, while treating every muslim leader like royalty! And if he was interested in preventing partisan politics, he'd be encouraging all his democrats to attend Bibi's speech, and he'd attend as well! What a phony, despicable , do-nothing empty suit we have in office! It's shameful.

7

 Feb 08, 2015 at 11:11 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
Benny Says:

I can't believe that US president and so many congressmen are so petrified of anybody's speach.
Bibi, you must be very good!

Of course Obama is afraid! He has an agenda, and it's pro Muslim, anti Israel! He is afraid when Bibi warns the world of what to expect should they make a bad deal with Iran and allow it to go nuclear, that he will lose any support for his pro Muslim agenda! And yes Bibi is that good! If anyone can clearly and eloquently articulate the dangers of allowing Obama to succeed in his agenda, it's Bibi!

8

 Feb 08, 2015 at 11:13 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #5  
One-Comment Says:

"but no matter how much they try, they can’t move Jewish voters on this issue,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the liberal pro-Israel group J Street."
NOT TRUE!!!!
The Dems have alienated many Democrats and many Independents; Jews and Non-Jews. The thought of Hillary Clinton, (who, like John Kerry, has shown lack of concern for Israel) being elected will force many of us to vote for the Republican Candidates.

You're right! Even the no rally pro-democratic liberal Jews moved away from supporting Obama when he ran for office the second time around, they still have a lot to learn but slowly they're realizing how dangerous Obama is!

9

 Feb 08, 2015 at 01:53 PM ayinglefunadorf Says:

Reply to #5  
One-Comment Says:

"but no matter how much they try, they can’t move Jewish voters on this issue,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the liberal pro-Israel group J Street."
NOT TRUE!!!!
The Dems have alienated many Democrats and many Independents; Jews and Non-Jews. The thought of Hillary Clinton, (who, like John Kerry, has shown lack of concern for Israel) being elected will force many of us to vote for the Republican Candidates.

"Force many of us to vote for Republican Candidate" And it will make a lot of difference? Right? New York, New Jersey, California, Mass. Conn. etc where 95 % of Jews live will go for HILLARY by a huge margin and ALL 230 Electorates will be awarded to Hillary. The only thing voting for Republican will accomplish that it will show that the Jewish Votes (Less than 2% of USA population) concentrated in 5 States voting Democrat, doesn't count. The only exeption is Florida but the Spanish vote is 10 times larger than the Jewish.

10

 Feb 08, 2015 at 02:02 PM ayinglefunadorf Says:

Reply to #5  
One-Comment Says:

"but no matter how much they try, they can’t move Jewish voters on this issue,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the liberal pro-Israel group J Street."
NOT TRUE!!!!
The Dems have alienated many Democrats and many Independents; Jews and Non-Jews. The thought of Hillary Clinton, (who, like John Kerry, has shown lack of concern for Israel) being elected will force many of us to vote for the Republican Candidates.

"The thought of Hillary being elected" Dream on. Hillary is ahead in the Polls againts any Republican by 23 Points. This are National Numbers. In Democratic States where we Yiden live she is ahead by 80/20 So you can dream on and Vote Republican, it Doesn't matter. If you are a frumme Yid your vote is going to Hillary regardless for whom you vote, unless you move to No Dakota , Louisiana and other Republican States. This how it works in the USA.

11

 Feb 08, 2015 at 09:21 PM puppydogs Says:

Reply to #10  
ayinglefunadorf Says:

"The thought of Hillary being elected" Dream on. Hillary is ahead in the Polls againts any Republican by 23 Points. This are National Numbers. In Democratic States where we Yiden live she is ahead by 80/20 So you can dream on and Vote Republican, it Doesn't matter. If you are a frumme Yid your vote is going to Hillary regardless for whom you vote, unless you move to No Dakota , Louisiana and other Republican States. This how it works in the USA.

Ha, she won't even be the democratic nominee.

Get used to hearing the term President Walker

12

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