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Most Americans balk at Netanyahu/GOP gambit

If Speaker Boehner thought the American mainstream would back him up on his Netanyahu scheme, the Republican leader is likely to be disappointed.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, Feb. 1, 2015. (Photo by Gali Tibbon/Reuters)
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, Feb. 1, 2015.
If all you saw was the headline on the latest Josh Rogin piece, you probably got the wrong idea. It reads, "Poll Shows Americans Want Netanyahu to Speak," though that's not quite what we learned yesterday.
As Rogin's piece explained, something called the Israel Project, a pro-Israel group, commissioned a poll and found that a plurality of Americans want Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to deliver remarks to Congress in order to criticize American foreign policy. So, the poll is good news for Republicans, right?
Not exactly. What the poll found is that 43% of Americans say they agree with this specifically worded sentiment: "[P]eople say Iran is getting closer to building a nuclear weapon. As one of the world's most knowledgeable leaders on the Middle East and the Iranian nuclear program, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu should address Congress before the March 31st deadline for a political framework with Iran." It's almost as if Fox News' pollster wrote the question.
A new independent poll, with more neutral phrasing, produced very different results.

A large majority of Americans believe that Republican congressional leaders should not have invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress without consulting the White House, according to a new CNN/ORC survey. The nationwide poll, released Tuesday, shows 63% of Americans say it was a bad move for congressional leadership to extend the invitation without giving President Barack Obama a heads up that it was coming. Only 33% say it was the right thing to do.

The controversial partnership between Netanyahu and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) hasn't even won over GOP voters. This same poll found that only a bare majority (52%) of self-identified Republicans believe the invitation to the Israeli leader was the right thing to do.
The Republican leader has been eager to defend his scheme, but so far, his arguments apparently haven't been too persuasive.
As for the political implications in Israel, the Republican effort to boost Netanyahu's re-election campaign is itself problematic.

The head of Israel's election commission acted on Monday to limit any pre-election boost Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may get from a March 3 speech to the U.S. Congress, in which he will warn of the threat from Iran's nuclear programme. [...] Following complaints from opposition parties, election chief Salim Joubran decided that Netanyahu's address should be broadcast with a five-minute delay in Israel, giving news editors time to cut any statements deemed partisan. "Editors-in-chief of broadcast channels will watch and make sure that nothing the prime minister says can be construed as election campaigning," Joubran said in a statement. "Any campaigning will be omitted from the broadcast."

Ed Kilgore added, "[T]he fact remains that in Israel it's assumed that the timing of Bibi's speech -- dictated to John Boehner by the Israeli Prime Minister -- was calculated to provide the maximum impact on Israeli elections being held just two weeks later."
And those assumptions are rooted in fact. Indeed, while the most controversial aspect of this fiasco is arguably the fact that Republicans have partnered with a foreign government to undermine American foreign policy, it's not the only relevant angle. The fact that GOP lawmakers in this country appear to be taking steps to intervene in an Israeli election is a problem unto itself.