The Obama Administration is ticked off that Bibi Netanyahu accepted Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to address Congress, and hasn’t been shy about letting people know it. But few of the President’s fellow Democrats in Congress have joined his protest. Buried in stories such as this one in the LA Times about a “split” in Democratic ranks over the Netanyahu visit is the news that only about two dozen members of Congress are considering skipping the speech. Out of 535 members of both houses, that’s not many at all, especially considering that the sitting President opposes the visit. Ultimately, rather than highlighting Netanyahu’s missteps, the small number of Democrats (at this point) announcing that they will boycott the speech confirms that it is the Administration that is politically isolated on the question of Middle East policy.There’s been a lot of talk about the prospective Netanyahu speech, from political, procedural, and moral angles. In our view, Congress is a co-equal branch of the government with significant constitutional responsibilities in the field of foreign policy and has an absolute right to invite anybody it chooses to address it. Now, it’s a separate question as to whether it was wise from an Israeli point of view for the Prime Minister to accept an invitation that appears to be driving a wedge between the President of the United States and the Israeli government, but that is something for the Israeli Administration to decide.The root cause of the rift between the two governments is an unrealistic set of policy choices by the current U.S. Administration that don’t have public support here and will clearly not be continued by his successors. The Obama Administration’s Israel policy has been a succession of failed initiatives going back to 2009,
But Netanyahu could blunder seriously by overplaying or mis-playing a strong hand. He needs to speak to Congress as a statesman and a uniter.