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Pressure Grows to Delay or Drop Bibi's Speech

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Reprinted from Wallwritings

From commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ron_Dermer_12-2013.jpg: Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer
Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer
(image by commons.wikimedia.org)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been "reaching out," as the New York Times delicately puts it, to Democratic leaders in the U.S. Congress who were blindsided by Republican House Speaker John Boehner's invitation to Netanyahu to address Congress March 3.

Netanyahu's office confirmed Thursday, according to the Times, that the Prime Minister had called Democrats and "other friends" in Congress in recent days, and that he "reiterated that the survival of Israel is not a partisan issue."

AIPAC usually handles "reaching out" for Israel when needed among power players in Washington. Not this time. AIPAC, according to a U.S. Jewish media source, did not know about the speech in advance of Boehner's invitation.

The damage has to be cleaned up by Netanyahu, if he wants to save his plan to address the U.S. Congress two weeks before he faces reelection in Israel March 17.

As a rule, political calls between Israel and the Congress are not made public. This uproar, however, calls for naming names. The Times provides them:

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"Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, said Thursday that Mr. Netanyahu had called him the previous afternoon to explain why the White House had been circumvented before he was invited to speak before Congress.

"The prime minister has also called Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, and Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the Senate's No. 3 Democrat."

Secret talks began three weeks ago between Netanyahu, his American-born ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer (pictured above), and Boehner. Their goal: Bring Netanyahu back for his third appearance before Congress, an honor allowed previously only to Winston Churchill.

The Speaker held up the announcement of the speech until the day after President Obama's State of the Union address.

In an action that angered the White House, Secretary of State John Kerry met with Dermer on the same day as the State of the Union, and Dermer said nothing to him about the March 3 speech.

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CNN reports that Dermer blames Boehner for his failure to inform Kerry about the speech...

"Boehner's office said he made it clear to Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer that 'it was his (Boehner's) prerogative to inform the White House,' and Dermer has said multiple times that is what he was led to believe.

"'It was the speaker's responsibility and normal protocol for the Speaker's office to notify the administration of the invitation,' Dermer told The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg on Friday."

CNN also reports that the White House was not told of the Netanyahu invitation on January 21, until two weeks after Boehner "first asked Dermer if Netanyahu might be interested." The Prime Minister was indeed "open in principle to an invitation."

This is a disturbing picture of the absence of diplomatic finesse in a maneuver that carries war or peace consequences.

Truthout's Robert Naiman makes a strong case as to why the speech should be postponed, starting with Boehner's failure to consult with the White House before issuing an invitation to a foreign leader.

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James Wall is currently a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Many sources have influenced Jim's writings over (more...)

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