Live Blog: Netanyahu Speech to CongressPosted: March 3, 2015 Filed under: Barack Obama, Foreign Affairs, U.S. Politics | Tags: Benjamin Netanyahu, John Boehner, partisan foreign policy, US-Israel relations 68 Comments
This morning at 10:45, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address a joint session of Congress. You can watch it on C-Span. I might try watching for awhile to see what kind of reaction he gets.
I plan to put up another post a little later. There’s another far more significant event happening tomorrow. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in King vs. Burwell, a lawsuit based on a ludicrous misreading of the ACA law. It will be up to John Roberts to decide if he wants to throw 8,000,000 people off their health care plans, and that’s exactly what Republicans are hoping for.
The other “issues” in the news are a tempest in a teapot over Hillary Clinton using private e-mail when she was Secretary of State and another fuss over when the State Department properly vetted contributions to Bill Clinton’s foundation. If we want Hillary to run for president, we are going to have to get used to this garbage.
For now, here are some quick links on the Netnyahu speech and the negotiations with Iran.
CNN: White House warns Netanyahu not to reveal Iran details.
The Obama administration is bracing for Benjamin Netanyahu to spill secret details of Iran nuclear talks, as both camps traded last-minute political jabs ahead of the Israeli prime minister’s controversial address to Congress Tuesday.
The White House is uncertain what precise details may come out but aides spent Monday frantically mobilizing after Israeli officials said that the prime minister planned to disclose sensitive details of an agreement taking shape in talks between six world powers and Iran, which has entered a delicate final stage.
Concern and anger among American officials about the nature of what Netanyahu might expose heightened already roiling tensions between the two countries. Secretary of State John Kerry cautioned about the damage such revelations might have on the negotiations and President Barack Obama himself attacked Netanyahu’s judgment.
Netanyahu is expected to use the details to bolster his argument before Congress that the deal under discussion will not prevent Iran from getting a bomb and could therefore threaten the Jewish state’s existence.
From the AP via Syracuse.com: Kerry working on Iran nuke deal, Netanyahu to criticize in speech to Congress.
As Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and their teams sought to hammer out an agreement at a luxury hotel in the Swiss resort of Montreux, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was set to make his case against one 4,090 miles away in Washington.
The U.S. and Iranian sides met for two hours on Tuesday morning before taking a break, according to U.S. officials. The officials said they expected the talks would resume later and likely continue through Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress, which will be delivered in the late afternoon local time in Montreux.
“We’re working away, productively,” Kerry told reporters.
“We are moving and we are talking to be able to make progress,” said Zarif. “There are issues and we want to address them. But there is a seriousness that we need to move forward. As we have said all along we need the necessary political will to understand that the only way to move forward is to negotiate.”
However, in a sign that Netanyahu’s speech is resonating outside Washington, Zarif decried comments that President Barack Obama made on Monday — as part of an administration-wide effort to push back on the Israeli’s criticism — in which he said that Iran would have to suspend its nuclear activities for at least a decade as part of any final agreement.
“It is clear that Obama’s stance is aimed at confronting propaganda by Zionist regime’s prime minister and other extremist opponents of the negotiations,” Zarif told Iranian reporters, calling it “unacceptable and threatening.” Zarif’s remarks were carried by Iran’s official news agency IRNA.
This speech that John Boehner and Netanyahu cooked up is causing all kinds of mischief.
According to John Ferziger at Bloomberg Politics, Netanyahu Risks Diplomatic, Political Pain If Speech Is Flat.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu goes to Congress on Tuesday gambling that disclosing compromises the U.S. made in trying to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran will delay or derail any agreement.
Netanyahu, a former Israeli army commando, has further damaged his frayed relationship with the White House by ignoring administration warnings and trying to undermine President Barack Obama’s effort to resurrect ties with the Islamic Republic. If his speech to a joint meeting of the House and Senate proves unpersuasive, Israelis may vote him out of office.
The Israeli leader, running for his fourth term in a March 17 election, will seek to “reinforce doubts that people have” and raise congressional pressure to better answer “the legitimate questions that are out there,” said Dennis Ross, a former special adviser to Obama on Iran and the Middle East.
However, said Yoram Meital, a political scientist at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba, Israel: “If he doesn’t reveal something significant or provides little hard evidence for his claims, it could affect the vote. Israelis are, by and large, afraid of Iran’s nuclear program, but they are ready to punish Netanyahu if he doesn’t deliver in this speech.”
Netanyahu will reveal details of the agreement being negotiated with Iran against a late March deadline by the U.S. and five other world powers that will show why he’s afraid it could lead to Israel’s nuclear annihilation, an official who asked not to be named because of the trip’s diplomatic sensitivity told reporters aboard the prime minister’s flight to the U.S.
Isn’t that just ducky? Boehner’s decision to invite a foreign leader to speak to Congress without informing the White House is unprecedented in U.S. history. The next time Republicans control the White House, Democrats could now feel invite a foreign leader to speak against that president’s policies. It’s a terrible precedent.
Two days ago Diane Feinstein called Netanyahu “arrogant” and added that “he doesn’t speak for her.” CNN reported:
Sen. Dianne Feinstein says Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “arrogant” for asserting that he speaks for all Jews — and that he doesn’t speak for her.
The California Democrat’s comments to CNN’s Dana Bash on Sunday’s “State of the Union” come days ahead of Netanyahu’s high-profile speech to Congress, in which he’s set to lobby against a deal to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
“My responsibility is to worry not only about the state of Israel, but also the future of the Jewish people,” Netanyahu said Saturday in Jerusalem. “And for that reason, we are strongly opposed to the agreement being formulated between the world powers and Iran that could endanger Israel’s very existence.”
Feinstein said she’ll attend Netanyahu’s speech — which President Barack Obama’s administration has heavily criticized. But she wasn’t happy with those comments.
“He doesn’t speak for me on this,” she said. “I think it’s a rather arrogant statement. I think the Jewish community is like any other community. There are different points of view. I think that arrogance does not befit Israel, candidly.”
From the Boston Herald: U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern blasts Netanyahu for ‘disrespectful’ speech.
Congressman Jim McGovern, one of a growing number of Democrats refusing to attend Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial speech before Congress tomorrow, ripped the foreign leader for turning Capitol Hill into a campaign “rally” point just weeks before his own county’s election.
“Joint sessions of Congress are not supposed to be political speeches … This is not a place for a foreign leader to do a re-election rally,” the Democrat said today in an interview on Boston Herald Radio’s “Morning Meeting” with hosts Hillary Chabot and Jaclyn Cashman.
“With joint session so close to his own reelection campaign and before we have reached a (nuclear) deal with negotiators with Iran, I think it’s disrespectful to our president, I think it’s disrespectful to our foreign policy leaders who are trying … to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon,” he added. “I don’t feel like I want to be a prop in a campaign ad for Prime Minster Netanyahu.”
McGovern, who called the speech’s timing “unprecedented” given the March 17 vote in Israel, also echoed Democratic slams of Speaker John Boehner, who has been criticized, including by the White House, for inviting Netanyahu to speak to the joint session of Congress without consulting the president.
The Worcester Democrat said Netanyahu should have sought a different avenue to speak with members of Congress, noting attempts by some Senate Democrats to arrange a separate meeting with him.
Fellow Bay State Congresswoman Katherine Clark has said she also plans to skip the speech, and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren last month called on officials to postpone it, saying she sides with the Anti-Defamation League’s stance on the address.
From Slate’s Joshua Keating: What Does it Mean for the Leader of a Foreign Country to Be a Republican?
In his speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected charges that he is injecting partisanship into the U.S.-Israel relationship. “The last thing anyone who cares about Israel, the last thing that I would want, is for Israel to become a partisan issue, and I regret that some people have misperceived my visit here this week as doing that,” he said. “Israel has always been a bipartisan issue. Israel should always remain a bipartisan issue.”
It’s a little late for that, Bibi. Tuesday, Netanyahu is giving what was billed from the moment it was announced as a rebuttal to President Obama’s State of the Union address. Much of the controversy surrounding the visit has been over the perceived mutual snubbing and sniping between Netanyahu’s office and the White House and what it says about the relationship between the two leaders. (Nothing good.) But the bigger story is Netanyahu firmly aligning himself in the camp of one of America’s political parties to the exclusion of the other one—a strategy that could, in the long term, be extremely detrimental to Israel’s interests.
Given the “very real difference” between Obama and Netanyahu over Iran’s nuclear program, the Israeli leader’s decision to accept John Boehner’s invitation to address Congress made some tactical sense. Netanyahu believes Obama is on the verge of making a historically dangerous deal with Iran and doesn’t see any prospect for changing his mind. Given that his officials say he’s “written off” Obama and doesn’t see any chance of changing his mind, why not reach out to Congress, the “last brake” to stop the deal, diplomatic niceties be damned?
But even if he’s not particularly interested in what the White House thinks of him at this point, what’s harder to understand is the cold shoulder Netanyahu has given congressional Democrats, some of whom have been willing in the past to push back against the White House on the Iran issue. The most striking moment in this whole mess was not so much Netanyahu accepting Boehner’s invitation, though that could certainly have been handled more deftly. It was when Netanyahu declined a closed-door meeting with congressional Democrats. This would seem to have been a welcome opportunity for some fence-mending given that a number of prominent members of Congress, including the most senior senator, Patrick Leahy, and a number of members of the Congressional Black Caucus, are skipping his speech over the perceived insult to Obama. Instead, Netanyahu dug in deeper, making the long-standing joke about Netanyahu being the “Republican senator” from Israel seeming not really like a joke anymore.
It’s certainly troubling. What kind of precedent is this going to set? What do you think? If you’re planning to watch the speech, I hope you’ll post comments about it with me below. And please check back later for a regular Tuesday post.