It is not a secret that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (A/K/A “Bibi”) and American President Barack Obama are not exactly the best of friends. Currently, the case-in-point is Iran. Obama prefers to negotiate, rather than bomb Iran, and his Secretary of State John Kerry is doing just that. Netanyahu, on the other hand, would prefer to bomb them.
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is a member of the (Republican) “Opposition” Party that has taken every opportunity to harass and obstruct the president’s Agenda, throughout his entire six years in office. So, Boehner and Netanyahu make for strange bedfellows.
Speaker Boehner recently invited Netanyahu to speak before a joint session of Congress on March 3, which is just two weeks before Bibi stands for re-election back home in Israel, on March 17. President Obama, who was not informed of the potential speech by either Boehner or Netanyahu, will not meet with the Prime Minister, which has always been standard U.S. policy near elections. This is not the first time that Netanyahu has dabbled in American politics; because, he openly supported his friend, Mitt Romney, in 2012, when he challenged Obama during the last Presidential Election.
Obviously, the divergence between the two leaders on this issue cannot be considered without some sort of context. Israel is a nation of eight million people, situated within the Middle East, and where just about every other nation–except Egypt and Jordan–is hostile toward it. So, Netanyahu represents a nation where its very security is, perhaps, the only predominant concern that really counts. Besides, Bibi’s main political power base is the Hawkish Conservative elements of Israel.
The U.S, on the other hand, is much larger, both in size and with its much larger population of 315 Million. America easily has the manpower and military technology to protect it homeland, and it is separated from much of the world by two large oceans. Also, given its size, its national priorities are considerably varied, and based on various ideologies.
There is one question, however, that still remains unanswered. Namely, what is the urgency for Bibi to deliver his speech so soon, rather than after the israeli elections? There can hardly be anyone in America, who might be interested in Israeli Affairs, that has not already heard the Prime Minister’s message before. During his annual address to the U.N. General Assembly, Prime Minister Netanyahu has delivered basically the same anti-Iran speech several times before. So, given his nation’s significant security concerns, has something really changed?
There have been a number of important Jewish-American organizations that have called for Netanyahu to either cancel or defer his speech. Likewise, many in Israel have suggested the same. The point is that the relationship between the two countries–and its importance in long-term Israeli security–is much too important to justify jeopardizing his nation’s security–from being a bipartisan issue, to becoming a partisan one.
Uri Dromi, Director General of the Mishkenot Sha’ananim conference center in Jerusalem, is a regular Op-Ed columnist in the Miami Herald, as well as a number of other global publications. He pointed-out that the Peace Index, which is a poll taken in Israel, reported that 57.5% of Israelis think that Netanyahu should have rejected Boehner’s invitation to speak before Congress. It also indicated that 67% believe that his primary motivation was to influence the Israeli election.
Dromi went on to suggest that Prime Minister Netanyahu, the most effective Israeli politician, will eventually cancel his speech; because, when the cameras show him speaking before the U.S. Congress, with an empty seat where Vice President Joe Biden would normally be seated and only Speaker John Boehner behind him, that would speak louder than all of the words about Iran. In essence, the TV cameras would reveal Bibi’s political motivations. According to Dromi, Netanyahu is a genius at the proper use of TV.
Also, by canceling, Dromi says that Netanyahu would have the best of both worlds. He has already raised the alarm about President Obama’s “soft” position on Iran, and he would have impressed his right-wing voters in Israel with bios display of flexibility. The job of repairing any lingering animosity of repairing the Israeli-American relations would then be that of the next Prime Minister–either Netanyahu or his challenger, Yitzhak Herzog. I believe that Mr. Dromi is right.