US Senator Schumer calls on fellow Democrats to attend Netanyahu speech

Leading Democratic senator says Israel-US relationship should “transcend” any political differences

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanks Speaker Boehner following his address to a joint meeting of Congress in the Rayburn Room of the US Capitol, May 24, 2011 (photo credit: SPEAKER.GOV)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanks Speaker Boehner following his address to a joint meeting of Congress in the Rayburn Room of the US Capitol, May 24, 2011
(photo credit: SPEAKER.GOV)
Leading Democratic Senator Charles Schumer called on his fellow Democrats on Thursday to attend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech in Congress next month, saying the Israel-US relationship should “transcend” any political differences.
“It’s always been a bipartisan policy,” Schumer said of the US-Israel relationship.
“Democrats and Republicans have always worked together on it, we ought to keep it that way.”
Some Democrats, including Vice President Joe Biden, have said they will not attend the speech.
Schumer, a ranking member of his party, was instrumental in altering the strident tone of the US-Israel relationship in the summer of 2010, after Biden’s disastrous visit during which Israel announced the building of homes in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood of Jerusalem. At that point, Israeli-US ties hit a nadir.
After he went on the radio in New York criticizing US President Barack Obama for pushing Israel too hard, the president’s tone changed dramatically.
On Tuesday, when asked whether he thought Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner “blindsided” Obama with his invitation to Netanyahu, the senator said on WAMC Northeast Public Radio that he thought it was a “bad idea” because “our policy toward Israel should always be bipartisan.”
“I think it could have been done in a different way,” he said. “At the same time he said that Netanyahu, as the leader of an ally in the Middle East that is “helping us fight terrorism,” has “every right to come here and speak, but he ought to do it in a bipartisan manner.”
Netanyahu referred again Thursday to reports that the US is boxing Israel out of the loop and not giving it all the information of the details of the talks, reiterating what he said the day before: that Israel does know the details of the deal on Iran.
And despite the tension over the issue, National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen met in the State Department on Wednesday with America’s top negotiator to the Iran talks, Wendy Sherman.
During the meeting, which one Israeli official characterized as “long” and “good,” US Secretary of State John Kerry joined the discussion for a half hour.
Cohen is expected to meet as well during his stay in Washington with his US counterpart, Susan Rice.
Meanwhile, Iran has still not addressed specific issues that could feed suspicions it may have researched an atomic bomb, a UN watchdog report showed, on the eve of the resumption of talks between US and Iranian negotiators Friday in Geneva.
The confidential report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, obtained by Reuters, said Tehran was continuing to withhold full cooperation in two areas of an IAEA investigation that it was supposed to have given by August last year.
“Iran has not provided any explanations that enable the agency to clarify the outstanding practical measures,” the IAEA said, referring to allegations of explosives tests and other activity that could be used to develop nuclear bombs.
Western diplomats have viewed such stalling as an indicator of Iran’s unwillingness to cooperate fully until punitive sanctions are lifted in talks with the United States, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain.
One Israeli official said Jerusalem was not surprised by the report, and that this had been Iran’s pattern of behavior for years.
Reuters and Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.