Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses US Congress in 2011.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Democrats in the House of Representatives are suggesting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu postpone his speech to a joint session of Congress until after the Israeli election on March 17.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) said it was “not appropriate” for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to invite Netanyahu without first notifying the White House – a move that angered the Obama administration.
Netanyahu is expected to advocate for a different policy on Iran that the president has thus far pursued.
“Such a presentation could send the wrong message in terms of giving diplomacy a chance,” Pelosi said. She spoke with Netanyahu by phone on Wednesday.
Other Democrats on the Hill began circulating a letter for co-signers on Wednesday suggesting the speech be postponed.
The March 3 address would be “harmful for three reasons,” the letter reads: “It undermines the president’s foreign policy, it puts a close ally in the middle of a domestic political debate, and it elevates a candidate in a foreign election.”
Netanyahu says he will speak anywhere, at any time, to drive home his message on the dangers posed by a nuclear Iran. World powers seek to clinch a political framework agreement by March 31.
Ten Democrats in the Senate joined their Republican colleagues this week declaring support for a new “trigger” sanctions bill on Iran. In a letter to the president sent on Wednesday, they agreed to hold off on a vote on the legislation until March 24.
US President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry have said they will decline to receive Netanyahu during his visit, citing its proximity to the Israeli election.
“I’m declining to meet with him simply because our general policy is, we don’t meet with any world leader two weeks before their election,” Obama told Fareed Zakaria in India this week. “I think that’s inappropriate, and that’s true with some of our closest allies.”