Some thought the disastrous partnership between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and congressional Republicans couldn’t become more of a debacle. They thought wrong.
Two weeks ago, the Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman joined the Mossad and Netanyahu’s former ambassador to the U.S. in criticizing the Netanyahu/GOP gambit to undermine nuclear talks with Iran. Over the weekend, Foxman was even more direct in calling on the Israeli leader to cancel.
Think the Netanyahu speech lead up is going well? Now even Abe Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), one of the oldest and most respected institutions of American Jewry, is saying the speech should be canceled. Foxman has run the ADL for almost thirty years. In the American Jewish community, it does not get anymore establishment than that.There’s another element of this too. It is fair to say that over the course of his tenure Foxman has become increasingly known for speaking out against criticisms of Israel, even in cases where the criticisms are from Jews and focus on policies and actions that are the subject of political contention within Israel.
“It’s a tragedy of unintended consequences,” Foxman told the Forward, adding that “the whole thing” has turned into “a circus.”
At the same time, a columnist for Haaretz, a leading Israeli newspaper, has now called on the Prime Minister to fire the ambassador, Ron Dermer, who helped put the gambit in motion. “Israel can no longer afford to keep Dermer in Washington,” columnist Bradley Burston argued. “The danger in leaving him at his post is much too great. He has become a liability even to the Republican Party he once served. Israel needs to fire Dermer now. Israel cannot afford for its most crucial ambassador to dig the country an even deeper hole.”
In DC, meanwhile, Vice President Biden announced Friday he will not be on hand for Netanyahu’s March 3 address to a joint session of Congress, and the number of Democratic lawmakers who’ll also stay away is growing.
A growing number of top Democrats plan to skip next month’s Capitol Hill speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.Reps. James Clyburn (S.C.), the third-ranking House Democrat, and Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.), chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), are just the latest lawmakers to indicate they won’t attend the March 3 address before a rare joint session of Congress.The Democrats join other leading Capitol Hill liberals – including Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the civil rights hero, and G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), head of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) – in protesting the speech by vowing to steer clear of it.
It’s best not to overstate the scope of the Democratic opposition, at least at this point. Between the House and Senate, there are 234 Dems on Capitol Hill, and the total of Democrats vowing to stay away from the Israeli leader’s address is not yet close to 10%.
But the group is growing, and Biden’s announcement gives rank-and-file lawmakers cover should they want it.
The broader point, however, remains the same. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), his allies, and Netanyahu’s team thought they’d come up with a scheme that would derail American foreign policy. The result is an international incident that strengthened President Obama’s hand, while Netanyahu’s administration and Republican leaders squabble among themselves over who bears responsibility for the debacle.
What’s more, this may yet get worse. No one involved seems to believe the Prime Minister will cancel, and there’s no chance the Speaker will rescind the invitation. In other words, between now and March 3, the controversy will continue, along with the recriminations.