Bibi-Boehner Redux

Bibi-Boehner Redux

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

There is a very dangerous potential scenario for Israel which could emerge after the dust settles from the Boehner-Netanyahu-Obama contretemps. Most scholars traditionally have understood that the actual conduct of U.S. foreign policy is within the purview of the Executive Branch. Certainly the Congress has oversight and funding input on all international relations but diplomacy and inter-State exchanges historically are the domain of the Heads of Government and not legislative leaders.  What is transparent in the Boehner invitation to Prime Minister Netanyahu to share with a joint session of Congress his views on the need to ratchet up Iranian sanctions is that it is loaded with enormous political gamesmanship on both sides in addition to the effort to influence U.S. foreign policy vis-à-vis Iran. (This conduct has even riled some of the voices on Fox News.)

What Netanyahu is doing– as no doubt conceived by Israel’s Ambassador in Washington, former Republican operative Ron Dermer, and probably also advanced on the advice of billionaire Republican and also Bibi benefactor, Sheldon Adelson–could totally backfire on Netanyahu and Israel. Ironically, it probably also will fail to help the Republican Party’s effort to court American Jewish support away from the Democratic Party. In addition to any likely ability this move may have to encourage the Congress to vote to increase sanctions on Iran, and possibly even override a threatened presidential veto, it must be assumed that that a shift in Jewish support for Republicans was very much part of the underlining rationale for Speaker Boehner.

As America prepares for the run-up to the 2016 presidential elections, Netanyahu wants to be the Prime Minister to greet what he clearly hopes will be a Republican president. At the same time Speaker Boehner wants to be head of a House which will have broken all records of Jewish support—votes and funding—for the GOP. The danger in this thinking on both sides is what should be problematic for American Jews and Israel; what happens to the U.S.-Israel relationship both in the meanwhile and should this not be the outcome. Speaker Boehner can move on and let this skirmish fall by the wayside, but Israel cannot walk away from its relationship with the U.S.; regardless of who is the next Prime Minister.

If Israel faces any problems in the next two years and Netanyahu is still Prime Minister the ill will that has been reinforced by this gross miscalculation could wreak havoc with the U.S.-Israel relationship, especially in the diplomatic sphere. No one assumes that Obama and the Pentagon and Langley will let Israel down on the security level, but in terms of political and diplomatic cover for Israel—at the U.N., in Europe, at the International Criminal Court, in the Human Rights Commission, fighting the BDS movement, and certainly the peace process—there is good reason for Israel to expect a less than 100% backing from an Administration in Washington which repeatedly has been dissed by Netanyahu. 

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