Dermer, Edelstein fail to calm Democratic rift over Netanyahu's Congress speech

Democratic representatives and Biden's attendance in question as Netanyahu's Congress speech nears; Israeli officials scramble to ease tensions.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
February 5, 2015 08:55
2 minute read.
Israeli ambassador to US Ron Dermer (R) and US Representative Nancy Pelosi (D.-Cal.)

Israeli ambassador to US Ron Dermer (R) and US Representative Nancy Pelosi (D.-Cal.). (photo credit: REUTERS)

Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, currently in the US, set out Wednesday to calm the storm on Capitol Hill created by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's pending Congress speech March 3rd, according to Politico.

The impending speech has created a rift amongst Democrats, Politco reports. The lawmakers are torn between supporting Israel and supporting their president whose absence from Netanyahu's speech has been long confirmed.

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Now, Vice President Joe Biden's absence is being toyed with as well, according to Josh Earnest, White House press secretary, who says that the VP "might be busy on March 3."

Biden's absence would be a "serious snub" to Netanyahu and to Israel-US relations.

According to Politico, Dermer met with seven Jewish Democratic members of Congress, who reiterated concerns that Netanyahu's speech was making them choose between their president and Israel, forcing them to consider a "boycott of the speech," and making support for Israel a "partisan issue."

To ease tensions on Capitol Hill, they suggested that Netanyahu privately address Congressional members, as opposed to a speech before a joint session.

As Dermer met with congressmen, Edelstein set out to meet with House Speaker John Boehner.

More drama arose in this meeting, Politico reports, as Boehner's office failed to invite House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, while managing to reach out to her rival, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer.

Steny Hoyer, along with House Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Eliot Engel who was also invited, both pulled out of the Edelstein-Boehner meeting when hearing of Pelosi's lack of invite.

Edelstein then had a meeting added with Pelosi, who brought along Hoyer and Engle.

But by that time Pelosi's attitude towards Netanyahu's congress speech shifted: While on Tuesday she confirmed to Politico her attendance should the speech, indeed, take place, by Wednesday, she expressed concern, issuing a statement through her spokesman Drew Hammill saying that, "casting a political apple of discord into the relationship is not the best way forward given the formidable challenges our two countries are facing together,” Politico reported.

Dermer is expected to meet with Engel Thursday.

Despite Dermer and Edelstein's attempts to ease tensions in Washington over Netanyahu's speech, their efforts failed, as dozens of Democrats continue to mull over the possibility of skipping the impending speech. 

With the controversy over his planned speech to Congress still swirling, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that it was his obligation to warn of the dangers of a nuclear Iran and do everything possible to prevent it.

Netanyahu, in what is turning into a daily statement on the dangers of the accord being negotiated by the world powers with Iran, noted that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday that talks were proceeding within the framework set by Teheran.

This framework, Netanyahu said, “will lead Iran to become a threshold nuclear state with international legitimacy, with all the requested economic relief.”

What this means, Netanyahu said, is that Iran will be freed from all pressure and “will reach a situation where it can arm itself with many nuclear bombs.”

This, Netanyahu said, “is very dangerous for Israel, dangerous for the region, dangerous for the entire world, and it is my obligation, as the prime minister of Israel, to warn about this danger and do everything I can to prevent it in time.”

Herb Keinon contributed to this report.


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