Boehner denies 'blindsiding' White House with Netanyahu invite

"I gave them a heads up that morning," US Speaker of the House says of controversial invitation to Israeli PM to address Congress.

January 26, 2015 14:32
2 minute read.
John Boehner

US Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH). (photo credit: REUTERS)


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US Speaker of the House John Boehner denied Sunday that he had "blindsided" the White House with his invitation to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress in March.

Netanyahu's acceptance of the invitation without the involvement of the White House sparked speculation about a further crisis in Obama administration-Israel relations after the White House called the move a breach of protocol.

" I gave them a heads up that morning," Boehner said in an interview with CBS 60 Minutes. "But there's nobody in the world who can talk about the threat of radical terrorism, nobody can talk about the threat that the Iranians pose, not just to the Middle East and to Israel, our longest ally but to the entire world, but Bibi Netanyahu," he added.

He denied that he had invited Netanyahu, a known critic of US President Barack Obama's policy on Iran, as a political move against the Democratic president.

Boehner said that Obama had glossed over the issue of terrorism and the Islamic State at last week's State of the Union address. "The president didn't spend but a few seconds talking about the threat, the terrorist threat that we as Americans face. This problem is growing all over the world. And you know, the president is trying to act like it's not there. But it is there. And it's going to be a threat to our homeland if we don't address it in a bigger way."

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, asked on CNN's "State of the Union" program on Sunday about the controversial Congress invitation to Netanyahu, said the Obama administration did not want to get into a "blame game" over the issue.

"Let's take a step back: This is the most important relationship we have in the world. This is something that ought to be and will continue to be, as far as we are concerned, above partisan politics," he said, referring to US ties with Israel.

The relationship, McDonough said, "stretches across many different things: from values, straight through intelligence cooperation, to defense and security assistance."

Republican Senator John McCain said on the CBS program "Face the Nation" that Israeli-US ties were "never worse," suggesting that for these reasons he thought "it's important that Prime Minister Netanyahu speak to the American people."

Reuters contributed to this report.

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