Democrats Back President on Netanyahu Speech

YERUSHALAYIM -

A day after U.S. President Barack Obama said that he would not meet with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on his March 3 visit so soon before Israeli elections, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) said that the scheduled address to a joint session of Congress on the Iran question was “not appropriate.”

“Such a presentation could send the wrong message in terms of giving diplomacy a chance,” Pelosi explained, referring to negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.

She spoke with Netanyahu by phone on Wednesday, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Other Democrats were collecting signatures on a letter proposing that the speech be postponed. The address is “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.”

Meanwhile, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer was reportedly subjected to “unusually sharp criticism” by a senior official in the Obama administration for his role in orchestrating the invitation to Netanyahu from Republican House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).

According to the story in The New York Times, “The outrage the episode has incited within President Obama’s inner circle” was something out of the ordinary. “Such officially authorized criticisms of diplomats from major allies are unusual,” it said.

Nevertheless, Dermer was unapologetic. “I have no regrets whatsoever that I have acted in a way to advance my country’s interests,” he was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

The failure to coordinate with the White House was not intended as a slight, he insisted. “My understanding was that it was the speaker’s [Boehner’s] prerogative to do, and that he would be the one to inform the administration. The prime minister feels very strongly that he has to speak on this issue. That’s why he accepted the invitation, not to wade into your political debate or make this a partisan issue, and not to be disrespectful to the president.”