House Speaker John A. Boehner, who infuriated the White House and many Democrats by inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress earlier this month, plans to visit Israel in the coming weeks, his office said Friday.
Netanyahu and the Likud party he leads won decisive victory in Tuesday's parliamentary elections, which came less than two weeks after Netanyahu's speech to a joint session of Congress. The address came not only in the midst of the Israeli election campaign but also during a crucial stage in multiparty negotiations over Iran's nuclear program -- talks that Netanyahu told Congress would lead to an Iranian bomb and represent a grave threat to Israel.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz was first to report on Boehner's travel plans.
Boehner aides declined to detail when, where and whom the speaker would be visiting, but they said that the trip was planned months before the Israeli elections and before Netanyahu's speech to Congress. Boehner (R-Ohio) has previously traveled to Israel, the aides said, most recently in 2008.
Tensions between Netanyahu and the White House have only escalated since Netanyahu's win, especially over comments the prime minister made on the eve of Election Day saying he would not support an independent Palestinian state -- which American officials consider a cornerstone of peace negotiations in the Middle East.
Netanyahu softened his remarks after his victory, but White House press secretary Joshua Earnest called them “cynical, divisive election-day tactics” on Thursday.
Congress is expected to adjourn for a two-week Easter recess next Friday. Haartez, citing Israeli officials, said the trip is set to begin the following week.