Israeli ambassador to US Ron Dermer (R) and US Representative Nancy Pelosi (D.-Cal.).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – The leading Democrat in the House of Representatives blames Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), not Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for “politicizing” the US-Israel relationship with his invitation to Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress next month, but voiced the hope that “the event will not take place.”
Netanyahu has accepted the invitation, and is scheduled to speak there two weeks before the Israeli election on March 17, but several Democrats have indicated that they might not attend.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Thursday that she respects the prime minister and – addressing rumors of a Democratic protest against the speech – stated her intention to attend.
“I’m seriously considering going. As of now, it is my intention to go,” Pelosi said. But, she added, “it is still my hope that the event will not take place. There’s serious unease.”
“With all the respect in the world for Prime Minister Netanyahu, we have welcomed him royally on two occasions to the Congress,” Pelosi said.
“Only Winston Churchill was welcomed three times and one of them was during World War II. My father was there as a member from Maryland, December 26, 2941. I have the picture in my office.
“So it isn’t that there isn’t any respect, admiration even an affection for the prime minister and certainly the strong ties with Israel. But at this time I think it would be better if we didn’t have it. And I think I’ve said quite a bit on the subject. So you have to ask them how they thought the meeting went.”
On Wednesday, Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer met with Democratic members of Congress to ease their concerns over Netanyahu’s speech, which expected to address Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Some expressed concern they’ve been placed in a political bind, caught between the president and the prime minister on a grave policy issue concerning national security.
Vice President Joe Biden may skip the event, breaking protocol in his role as president of the Senate. The vice president typically sits alongside the speaker of the House during any joint session of Congress.
But on March 3, Biden “might be busy,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest.
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have already announced their decision not to receive Netanyahu during the visit.