His Master's Voice: Netanyahu Invited to Instruct Congress, American People on Iran

By McMahon, Janet | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, March/April 2015 | Go to article overview

His Master's Voice: Netanyahu Invited to Instruct Congress, American People on Iran


McMahon, Janet, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


It's not as if the signs weren't already there. As far back as 1998, days before peace discussions were to begin under the aegis of then-President Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu arrived in Washington, DC and immediately went to a rally of Christian and Jewish supporters. There the Rev. Jerry Falwell-whom Steven Erlanger of The New York Times noted was "regarded by the Clinton administration as an outright enemy of the president"-enthusiastically described Netanyahu as "the Ronald Reagan of Israel."

As Erlanger went on to report in his Jan. 19, 1998 article: "A meeting with Mr. Falwell was added to Mr. Netanyahu's schedule at the last minute, officials said, before he met the Republican Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich. Mr. Netanyahu will also meet with conservative Republican legislators including Senators Sam Brownback of Kansas and Jesse Helms of North Carolina, and will give interviews to conservative groups and commentators like Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcast Network and Cal Thomas of The Washington Times."

Apparently the Israeli prime minister found it quite acceptable to work the opposition in a country other than his own-and no one seemed to disabuse him of that notion.

More recently, when Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress in May 2011-for the second time-Americans' elected representatives jumped to their feet 29 times to cheer the foreign head of state. Two months earlier, members of Congress had accorded their president, Barack Obama, 25 standing ovations during his State of the Union speech.

Netanyahu's enthusiastic reception came just days after he delivered what McClatchy Newspapers described as "a public rebuke" of President Obama during a 90-minute meeting at the White House. Netanyahu "flatly reject[ed] any suggestion that Israel might even consider withdrawing from territories it seized in the 1967 Six-Day War," McClatchy reported on May 20, 2011.

And on a visit to Israel late last December, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Netanyahu that "Congress will follow your lead" on legislation regarding Iran sanctions.

One heard little or no outrage expressed following any of those previous challenges to American sovereignty over its own affairs. So why has House Speaker John Boehner's Jan. 21 announcement of his invitation to Netanyahu to speak before a joint session of Congress generated such controversy? Apparently what makes this insult different from any other insult is that it constitutes a serious breach of protocol. Miss Manners would be proud!

Not only has that breach backfired big time, however, generating a discussion rarely heard in this country about whether Israeli interests should prevail over American, but as details emerged over the ensuing days the insults just got egregiouser and egregiouser.

In his Jan. 20 State of the Union address, President Obama told Congress: "There are no guarantees that negotiations [with Iran] will succeed....But new sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails....That is why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress. …

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