The Prime Minister’s decision to speak before Congress at the invitation of Speaker Boehner is poorly thought out and ultimately does not serve him, Israel or American Jewry.
Although Mr. Netanyahu is ostensibly coming to speak to the issue of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon capability, everything about this visit undercuts this message and works against him. First, is the matter of propriety. Acceptance of Mr. Boehner’s invitation is also effectively a snub of the President of the United States. This is bad. Neither Israel nor American Jewry wants the Prime Minister creating tensions between these two important allies. This is the time for the two countries to be joined ever more closely. Interests align as never before.
There exists a political power play in this country. Congress and the Executive branch are engaging in a process. While this is going on, the Israeli Prime Minister should not want himself or his country to become embroiled in the internal politics of the United States, becoming a pawn of one branch of government only to alienate the other. This would run counter to the interests of Israel, as the State needs to maintain and deepen its relationships at every level to the United States.
The timing of this reflects badly within the Israeli political system as well. This visit is scheduled in close proximity to the Israeli elections. Therefore the appearance before Congress is cynically seen as a ploy to bolster the Prime Minister’s position at home. This does not serve anyone’s interest either.
Finally, there is a policy and plan that the President has put forth regarding sanctions against Iran and negotiations with that country. Congress and the Prime Minister may both disagree with that policy and have legitimate reason to do so, but publicly displaying such a disagreement is imprudent. It is divisive at a time when divisiveness precisely the opposite of what you need to achieve. It is more than a bad idea, it is a ham-fisted attempt to voice legitimate concerns and circumvent the President that will cause far more damage to an important relationship than it will do to further Israel’s concerns for its security.
It is in the best interests of Mr. Netanyahu to pass on this opportunity to appear before congress. He should go home, campaign to win the election to become Prime Minister of the new government and then approach the United States to make his case for a different approach to the Iran nuclear problem.