WASHINGTON (JTA) – House Speaker John Boehner said he kept the White House out of the loop on his invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “to make sure that there was no interference.”
Discussing Netanyahu’s scheduled address to Congress on March 3, Boehner (R-Ohio) made his remarks Sunday in an interview with Chris Wallace on the Fox News Channel.
“It is no secret here in Washington about the animosity this White House has for Prime Minister Netanyahu,” he said. “I simply didn’t want them getting in the way and quashing what I thought was a real opportunity.”
Boehner said he wanted Netanyahu to speak in part because he wants him to rebut Obama’s claims that nuclear talks underway between Iran and the major powers are constructive.
The White House and congressional Democrats have complained that Boehner and Israel’s U.S. ambassador, Ron Dermer, did not consult with the White House or Democrats. It is protocol to consult with the White House about such invitations and with leaders of both parties. Boehner issued the invitation in the name of both Democrats and Republicans, although he did not notify Democrats.
Three top Jewish Democrats in the House – Reps. Steve Israel and Nita Lowey, both of New York, and Ted Deutch of Florida – wrote Boehner last week asking him to explain why he had asked Dermer to keep quiet about the speech. Like many other Democrats, the three lawmakers have said they will attend the speech but are dismayed by the circumstances of the invitation.
A number of other Democrats have said they may not attend the speech.
Last week, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) initiated a nonbinding resolution that would welcome Netanyahu’s speech. The resolution, which now has 51 sponsors – all Republican – “eagerly awaits the address of Prime Minister Netanyahu before a joint session of the United States Congress.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in a floor speech last week that lawmakers not attending the speech would send the wrong message to enemies of the United States and Israel.
“One of our strongest ally’s prime minister wants to speak before the Congress and they won’t even attend the speech?” he said. “What do you think the headlines will be read as in Iran, by the terrorists in Gaza, by the terrorists in Judea and Samaria, by the terrorists in all parts of the world, such as in Lebanon, who want to destroy Israel?”