By Tal Schneider and Noga Tarnopolsky
From the Israeli point of view, there is no way to look at the extraordinary invitation House Speaker John Boehner extended to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address both houses of Congress and not see an act of crass intervention in Israel’s electoral process.
Invite him for a third time? When only Churchill has addressed Congress three times? Just two weeks before the election? Really??
Is there any way this could have been handled with less class?
We are speaking, of course, about the evergreen subject of Iran, an issue that isn’t going anywhere, and that can change at any time. This week’s permutation seems to be about the third deadline faced by the P5+1 negotiators and the Republican move towards new sanctions, which the White House has already threatened to veto.
The result is of course two-fold. Boehner gets to stick his finger in Obama’s eye and Bibi will get fresh footage showing his applause lines at the US Congress. Slow clap. Sneery Israeli right wing MK Tzachi HaNegbi came right out and said on Army Radio that the GOP hoped to embarrass Obama through the Netanyahu invite.
The situation is so weird that it still remains to be seen whether Israel’s elections overseer will permit local TV stations to broadcast the speech live, as it falls pretty clearly into the rubric of free and unaccounted for campaign publicity. And another question? What will Barack Obama do with this unwanted visitor in town? Ignore him? Find an event in LA?
Obama’s first volley came quickly, in a strategically timed leak about the Mossad’s open disagreement with netanyahu’s position on new sanctions against Iran. Slap.
Kerry, of course, stepped up to back up his boss.
For now, the Labor party has restricted itself to rather low-level commentary. More is to come. You can be sure that this story will not culminate with a genteel exchange of messages from both campaigns. The White House has already slammed the invitation as a “departure from protocol” and Labor is merely biding its time and waiting for the White House to fully vent its fury giving formulating a more complete response.
It’ll be interesting to watch Yitzhak Herzog in the coming days. For now, he has maintained a civil, polite attitude towards Netanyahu, and, it goes without saying, towards all American officialdom. But John Boehner’s act goes way beyond the normal purview of a party leader in a friendly country. Its an act of hostile defiance aimed very personally at the man who could– yes, he might– be Israel’s next prime minister and its an act of overt partisanship at what Boehner must have known is an incredibly delicate moment. It really is an outrage, and its a test of Herzog’s new leadership persona.