On BiBi at Congress
Dear Reader: This blog is being published today because the topic is related to Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled address to Congress on March 3.
A big brouhaha. Democrats are accusing Benjamin Netanyahu (Bibi) of offending the President of the United States. They will boycott the speech. But they nevertheless invited him to speak to them separately and got offended because he refused to do so. And the invitation came from Democrats with an “impeccable voting record for Israel.” Michael Oren, a former US ambassador to Israel now running against Netanyahu’s party for election to the Israeli Parliament, said “this is an unprecedented offense.”
Susan Rice said that Netanyahu’s insistence to speak is “destructive” to the Israeli-American relations. In diplomatic parlance it is a very serious accusation.
The Israeli left, trying to unseat Netanyahu, and J Street, an organization in the US that claims to be supporting peace in the Middle East and published a whole page ad in the New York Times, are accusing Bibi of endangering Israeli-American relations for the sake of improving his chances of being reelected in the elections two weeks after his speech.
What is going on?
Is Bibi that irresponsible? That self-serving that he would endanger Israel by alienating practically the only ally Israel has left in the world just to get some votes in the coming elections?
I have an analysis of the situation, one I have not seen in any newspaper or TV commentary.
Bibi was invited by John Boehner, the Speaker of the House and the head of Congress. Why does he need permission from the White House to accept or reject the invitation? The Congress does not report to the President. Neither does the Prime Minister of Israel. Ah, diplomatic courtesy!! Well, if someone should have shown courtesy, it is the inviter not the invitee.
Boehner didn’t clear the invitation with the White House, especially since he knew it will annoy the President. What Netanyahu will say in his speech is not a secret. And that the President will be annoyed will not be a surprise.
So why did Boehner not clear the invitation with the President? It is the Speaker of the House that offended the President, no?
How come the White House is all up in arms against Netanyahu and not one word against the Speaker, the one who started the commotion with the invitation in the first place?
Ah, politics. Politics.
That the White House is upset with Bibi reminds me of a Sephardic expression: “criticize your daughter so that your daughter in law will hear it.”
It is not comfortable to criticize a daughter in law. So we find a way to let her know our displeasure indirectly.
This brouhaha is also a manifestation of the increasing rift and clear animosity between the Republicans, the inviter, and the President, a Democrat. It is a “fight” carried on Netanyahu’s shoulders. Instead of criticizing Boehner, it is easier to criticize the invited speaker.
Bibi was smart and right to refuse to appear in front of Democrats separately. Just as he refused to appear in front of Republicans separately. He declined the role of ping pong ball in the furious “table tennis game” between the two parties.
He has a much more important mission: to deliver a convincing message that Obama’s appeasing stance towards Muslims, in this case applied to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, is dangerous to Israel’s existence. And the accusation of the Israeli left and J Street that he is doing it to augment his chances for reelection are shallow; the situation has created enough criticism in Israel to cost him votes rather than gain them.
So why is he sticking to his decision to go ahead and make the speech? Because he does not want to go down in future history books as the leader who did not do his absolute utmost to protect Israel from a nuclear holocaust. He has a mission. All the others are playing politics.
Ichak Kalderon Adizes