Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accepted an invitation orchestrated by the Republican leadership and Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States and a long-time Republican activist before moving to Israel. In so doing Mr. Netanyahu has not only antagonized the Obama administration by a breach of protocol but the Democratic Party as well.
Netanyahu claims he speaks for the Jewish people. He does not speak for me. He does not speak for the 47 percent of Israelis who want him to cancel his speech. He does not speak for Michael Oren, former ambassador to the United States. He does not speak for former leaders of Mossad and Shin Bet. He does not speak for former military officers. All of them have asked the Prime Minister to cancel his appearance before a joint session of Congress.
Netanyahu does speak for his close friend and supporter Sheldon Adelson, the multi-billionaire who has pledged millions of dollars to Republican candidates. Adelson also owns the leading newspaper in Israel, which he distributes free, and is dedicated to the reelection of the prime minister.
Netanyahu’s opposition to any agreement with Iran that includes allowing the development of nuclear energy for any purpose is well known. He also can continue his crusade in his speech before AIPAC. There will be representatives from both sides of the aisle in attendance, so why risk alienating a major party and a sitting president? The obvious answer is that the prime minister is intent on continuing his crusade to drive a wedge in Jewish support for Democrats.
Netanyahu may succeed. I am sure he will receive multiple standing ovations from his Republican friends. It may even help him get reelected. However, in the long run his disrespect of a major party and a sitting president could very well backfire against Israel and the Jewish people.
For members of the Republican Jewish Coalition, which is trying hard to blame Obama for Netanyahu’s bad decision, I would caution to be careful what you wish for. The most anti-Israel secretary of state in recent memory was James Baker who served under George H.W. Bush.