Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to deliver a highly controversial speech to Congress this Tuesday. In an unprecedented move that the majority of Americans oppose and many believe to be a crime, House Speaker John Boehner bypassed President Obama and directly invited the foreign leader to speak. Netanyahu is expected to be highly critical of the Obama administration and our nuclear negotiations with Iran.
In reaction to this slap in the face, many seats will remain empty during the speech. CNN has reported that 34 Democrats have publicly stated they will not attend. Three additional Democrats, not currently noted on CNN’s list, have also said they will skip the speech.
On Feb 11th, Politico reported that Hank Johnson (D-GA) won’t be attending. David Price (D-NC) is on record as saying he won’t be there. Then, of course, there’s Vice President Joe Biden, President of the Senate. He plans to skip the speech as well.
A grand total of 37 Democrats are skipping Netanyahu’s speech. Hopefully more will muster the courage to join their ranks between now and Tuesday.
The Boston Globe printed a solid piece explaining why Democrats should boycott Netanyahu’s speech to Congress. In the article, Michael A. Cohen says of the upcoming speech:
“To attend would both legitimize Boehner and Netanyahu’s actions but also give an explicit boost to Netanyahu’s reelection effort, which, if successful, would likely lead to the creation of a right-wing Israeli government whose values are alien to the Democratic Party.”
Cohen further explains that the majority of Israelis feel the primary reason Netanyahu is giving the speech is to influence upcoming elections in Israel:
“In Israel, the notion that domestic politics is Netanyahu’s primary motivation for coming to Washington is basically taken for granted. According to one January poll, 67 percent of Israelis think Netanyahu is using the speech ‘to influence the election results at home.’”
The author rightly concludes that by merely participating in the event, Democrats are allowing themselves to be used as a political prop:
“This is what makes the decision facing congressional Democrats that much more consequential. If one concludes that Netanyahu’s speech is basically about Israeli domestic politics — and Congress is being used as a political prop — attending the joint session takes on a very different meaning: Simply sitting in the House chamber to hear Netanyahu would be the equivalent of cutting a campaign ad for his reelection.”