WASHINGTON (JTA) — Rep. John Boehner, the House speaker who played a key role in this year’s crisis in U.S.-Israel ties, is stepping down.
Boehner’s resignation, confirmed by colleagues on Friday, comes as the Ohio Republican is under increasing pressure within his party’s caucus to reconcile moderates, who are ready to compromise with the Obama administration on spending, and conservatives, who favor shutting down the government.
Boehner will step down by the end of October, news reports said.
Boehner helped organize Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress in March against the emerging Iran nuclear deal favored by the Obama administration. Netanyahu and Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, agreed to Boehner’s request to keep planning for the speech secret, catapulting the prime minister’s already tense relationship with President Barack Obama into one of open hostility. Democrats in the White House and in Congress treated Netanyahu as a GOP partisan ready to collude with Obama’s political enemies.
Obama and Netanyahu will meet in November in a bid to tamp down tensions now that the sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions deal reached between Iran and six major powers is ready to move forward.
The likeliest replacement for Boehner is Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the majority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives. McCarthy, who is more conservative than Boehner, has close ties to pro-Israel Republicans; he spoke earlier this year at the Republican Jewish Coalition forum in Las Vegas.
Boehner has longstanding ties to the Jewish community, dating to the launch of his career as a local politician in southern Ohio.
“Speaker Boehner has always been attuned to the interests of the Jewish community,” said William Daroff, the Washington director of the Jewish Federations of North America, who launched his own career as a page to Boehner in the Ohio House of Representatives.
Daroff said Boehner worked with Jewish groups “closely to help those served by our social service agencies, to bolster the philanthropic sector and to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship. His steadfast leadership will be missed.”