There’s been scuttlebutt all week about congressional Democrats skipping Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming speech as a way to send a message about the party’s disappointment. The way in which Netanyahu and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) went behind President Obama’s back, and partnered to undermine U.S. foreign policy, does not sit well with many Dems, and even an informal boycott of his congressional address would be a big deal.
Those Democrats inclined to skip the Prime Minister’s remarks will apparently have some cover.
Vice President Joe Biden is expected not to attend a March 3 speech at the Capitol by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu because he will be traveling abroad, Biden’s office confirmed to NBC News Friday.It is not clear yet where Biden will be traveling at the time of Netanyahu’s speech, which has become controversial both because of its proximity to the Israeli elections and because it was planned by Republicans without prior consultation with the White House.
The second part is of particular interest. As the AP’s report notes, the Vice President’s office didn’t point to a specific commitment abroad on March 3, only that Biden is “expected to be traveling.” The office didn’t say where or why.
It’s hardly unreasonable to wonder if this is the diplomatic equivalent of, “I’m washing my hair – somewhere.”
Just as striking, meanwhile, is the degree to which Netanyahu’s administration appears to be throwing the Republican leadership under the bus.
A senior Israeli official suggested on Friday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been misled into thinking an invitation to address the U.S. Congress on Iran next month was fully supported by the Democrats. […]“It appears that the speaker of Congress made a move, in which we trusted, but which it ultimately became clear was a one sided move and not a move by both sides,” Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi told 102 FM Tel Aviv Radio on Friday.
Or to put it another way, “We totally trusted Boehner to do this the right way; he didn’t; so blame him for this fiasco.”
We talked the other day about this increasingly messy problem, and the growing debate as to who screwed up more; Boehner or Netanyahu. These latest comments from a senior Israeli official suggest the Prime Minister is eager to tilt the scales in the GOP leader’s direction.
That said, in the same interview Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi suggested Netanyahu’s speech will go forward as planned. The question now is how many Democrats intend to show up.
I’ve generally been skeptical about whether a large-scale boycott would come together – a few House Dems have announced their intention to stay away, though it’s a pretty small group – but the news about Vice President Biden may very well change the entire dynamic for Democrats.