The media have speculated recently that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will reverse his decision to accept House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to address a joint meeting of Congress at the beginning of March. Perhaps this is just wishful thinking on the part of the White House and the Democrats, or perhaps there is some truth to it. But it would be a tragedy if Netanyahu doesn’t come to America, and there are two big reasons why he should not cancel.
First, the prime minister should not cancel his trip just because the White House and the Democrats are whining about it. They are not upset because there wasn’t the usual coordination on this invitation between the White House and Congress; they are upset because Netanyahu intimidates the Democrats and exposes the weakness of their commitment to stopping Iran from having nuclear weapons. Netanyahu’s presence will put in vivid relief the lip service the Democrats give to the U.S.-Israel alliance and Washington’s ambivalent support for Israel under President Obama. The fact is, the Democrats have been artful at maintaining a sizable majority among Jewish voters at home despite being much less supportive of the state of Israel than Republicans have been for at least the past 20 years. Netanyahu’s planned visit helps expose that disconnect. Obama has refused to meet with Netanyahu, Vice President Joe Biden will conveniently be traveling overseas, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) went so far as to say that Democrats may not attend the joint meeting because “it’s not a high-priority item for them.” Really? That doesn’t sound like a mere excuse; Pelosi wanted to deliver an insult — and she succeeded.
As I always say, in politics, it’s best to start from an honest place. America’s relationship with Israel is nothing new, but we are at a point now where that relationship needs to be politically recalibrated. The Democrats need to either renew their support for Israel or admit their diminished commitment.
The second reason Netanyahu needs to address Congress is that Obama is not making the case that America must be prepared to do whatever it takes to stop Iran from making a nuclear weapon. In fact, Obama appears to be doing the opposite. He is allowing Iran to skate by, leaving much of its nuclear infrastructure in place and accepting at face value the Iranians’ promise that they are absolutely not lying about their nuclear intentions this time. Alarm bells are ringing and bipartisan experts are cautioning against the trajectory the Obama administration is taking with its negotiations. Obama seems to be focused on making a unilateral agreement that would allow him to say in one of the future books he plans on writing about himself that Iran didn’t have a single nuclear weapon under his watch. That seems to be driving the train here, but that isn’t going to keep us safe in the long run.
Netanyahu needs to come to the United States, and the more high-profile the visit, the better. He needs to talk about what is at stake with regard to Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. And, oh by the way, it is not just America’s regional allies — starting with our best ally, Israel — who are threatened by Iran’s nuclear weapons. Iran also threatens the United States. We have to be prepared for Iran to attack us here at home. That is the threat we face.
Democrats should rethink their position and opposition to Netanyahu’s visit. Their unanimity in supporting Obama and reinforcing his disdain for Netanyahu and his ambivalence about Israel generally is not good policy for America, and it’s not good politics for Democrats.