22 January 2015

On Boehner and Bibi

Two things disturb me about House Speaker John Boehner's decision to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of Congress:  that he didn't clear the invitation with the White House and that Bibi accepted it.

It should be no surprise to anyone anymore that Mr. Boehner pulled a stunt like this as Washington sinks lower and lower into the great sandbox fights of our most petulantly partisan and child-like civic selves.  Since 2008, Republican strategy has been quite clear in its decisions to block the President's path whenever possible and to execute a scorched earth political plan often rooted in mockery, denigration, and on more than one occasion, racism.

And while it is no secret that President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu have a terrible relationship, fraught with tension and disagreement not only about Iran but about Israeli settlement policy, the Israeli Prime Minister's decision to take the American political bait in the midst of his own election campaign in Israel where numbers show he may actually lose, is a cynical move and frankly, embarrassing.

Imagine if you will the maturity of a nation's leader having the self-discipline to simply say, "Many of you are aware of the differences between President Obama and myself on various matters but it would be inappropriate of me to accept an invitation to speak to Congress without being invited to do so by the President of the United States.  Our nations are the deepest of friends and united in our fight against terror and extremism.  And though we have our differences, I intend, as I often do, to share them directly with the President and not insert myself into divisive partisan politics.  After all, Israel has no shortage of the politics of division itself!  I have many friends in the Republican and Democratic parties whose unwavering support for Israel is deeply appreciated by myself and my nation and I would never want to unnecessarily disturb that relationship for temporary political gain."

Alas, that is not the case.

The challenges we are confronting today are enormous and dangerous.  Disagreements among allies is not unusual or new--certainly to the America-Israel relationship.  Regarding Iran, turmoil and instability in the Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and beyond; the rise of Muslim terror threats in Europe coinciding with Far Right extremism there as well, and the ongoing lack of resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict--there is both room for disagreement while remaining united over the general direction of the alliance.

That Mr. Boehner and Mr. Netanyahu would openly ally themselves against the President strikes me as a dangerous precedent and signals both to our other trusted allies and more significant, our enemies, that this division and weakness can only further be exploited by those who would seek to do us maximal damage.

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