Several influential senior Democratic senators said on Wednesday they and other senators are considering boycotting an upcoming speech to Congress by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to protest the decision by House Republicans to disregard protocol and invite the foreign leader without the involvement and blessing of the White House. “Colleagues of mine are very concerned about it and I’m troubled by it. I won’t name names, of course,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat who is also a close ally of President Barack Obama. “It’s a serious mistake by the speaker and the prime minister. The relationship between Israel and the United States has been so strong, so bipartisan.” Durbin said he hasn’t decided whether to attend the March 3 speech to a joint meeting of Congress. In his address, Netanyahu is expected to criticize the controversial negotiations the Obama administration is spearheading with Iran aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program. Those talks face a critical deadline at the end of March.
“One of my closest friends — one of the strongest supporters of Israel — described this Boehner tactic as a disaster, a terrible disaster for Israel,” Durbin said, referring to Republican House Speaker John Boehner who invited Netanyahu. “I won’t speak for any other members but they’ve been talking to me about what is the right way to react to what could turn out to be a divisive event.” Asked about a boycott, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who is Jewish and the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said “there are people discussing that.” She hasn’t decided if she will attend the speech, which will take place in the House chamber. But she is deeply concerned about Netanyahu’s appearance, in part, because it is scheduled just days before the prime minister faces voters in Israeli elections. “I take it very seriously,” Feinstein said. “My concern is that it is obviously political and it uses the backdrop of the United States House of Representatives and the Senate two weeks before a political campaign and violates all the protocol that’s always existed in terms of working this out with the President and I don’t think that helps Israel.” More