US Vice President Joe Biden.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Vice President Joe Biden will not be attending Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech before a joint session of Congress next month.
A statement released by aides to Biden, who is usually in his seat whenever a foreign leader addresses the legislature by dint of his position as president of the Senate, indicated that the vice president will be traveling abroad during the speech.
"We are not ready to announce details of his trip yet, and normally our office wouldn't announce this early, but the planning process has been underway for a while," an official in the vice president's office told The Jerusalem Post
, suggesting planning for the trip began before Netanyahu's visit was announced.
"We will announce additional information as soon as we are able," the official said.
The possibility that Biden would skip the premier's speech was first reported earlier in the week by the American newsmagazine Politico
The speech has created a rift amongst Democrats, Politico
reported. The lawmakers are torn between supporting Israel and supporting their president whose absence from Netanyahu's speech has been long confirmed.
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.Michael Wilner contributed to this report.