US Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Three Democratic lawmakers penned a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) over the weekend, insisting he answer accusations from Israeli officials that he misled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his invitation to address Congress.
The letter, written by Jewish Congressmen Steve Israel (D-New York), Ted Deutch (D-Florida) and Nita Lowey (D-New York), harshly criticizes Boehner’s moves as “partisan disregard of long-standing protocol.”
Hill Democrats have expressed broad frustration over Boehner’s handling of the speech. Some plan on boycotting its delivery on March 3, though all three representatives who penned the letter plan to attend.
The three authors, with staunch track records in favor of Israel, said that Boehner’s invitation – and not Netanyahu’s decision to accept – has created a distracting rift in the US-Israel relationship.
“The stakes are too high to be playing political games when it comes to our national security and the security of Israel,” the letter reads.
“Unfortunately, your recent actions have distracted our nation and the world from an essential discussion about how to achieve our shared goal of halting Iran’s nuclear weapons program.”
They asked the speaker to answer two specific questions: Why he did not inform the administration of his plans, as Israeli officials believed he had; and whether he suggested to the prime minister that the invitation was bipartisan in nature.
Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, has said publicly that Netanyahu’s team expected Boehner to inform the White House that the event was in the works.
“Was Ambassador Dermer correct?” they asked in the letter. “Why didn’t you notify and coordinate ahead of time with the administration?” Boehner’s spokesman, Michael Steel, told The Jerusalem Post in an email that the speaker did inform the Obama administration before publicizing the event.
The speaker’s team has previously said it informed the White House of the plan the same day it told the press.
The Democratic trio also noted Deputy Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi’s remarks on the incident in response to accusations that Israel is meddling in US affairs.
“It appears that the speaker of Congress made a move, in which we trusted, but which it ultimately became clear was a one-sided move and not a move by both sides,” Hanegbi said.
Netanyahu is also scheduled to deliver an address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee during his visit to Washington. He is not scheduled to meet with anyone from the Obama administration.