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Why I Won't Attend PM Netanyahu's Address

February 27, 2015
Blog Post
Why I Won't Attend PM Netanyahu's Address
On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address a joint session of Congress at the invitation of Speaker John Boehner. Ordinarily, this is one of the grandest of all congressional traditions, unlikely to rouse controversy: a visiting head of state addressing our nation’s leaders about shared priorities and opportunities for cooperation.
 
But I do not plan to attend Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech, nor do many of my colleagues.
 
For the past several years, the United States has been part of an international coalition engaged in historic negotiations with Iran, aimed at stopping and rolling back the Iranian nuclear program. Our negotiators, working in tandem with diplomats from the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany, have made remarkable progress, and recent reports suggest that the international coalition is inching closer to a comprehensive agreement that would effectively end Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons.
 
These negotiations rely on a very delicate diplomatic balance, where relatively insignificant events could prompt Iran to leave the negotiations or upset the coalition and undermine the effectiveness of the sanctions regime that first brought Iran to the table. I have strongly advocated for giving the negotiators the time and space to do their jobs, lobbying my colleagues against rash, unilateral congressional action aimed at antagonizing the Iranians or expressing no-confidence in our Administration.
 
So what does this have to do with Netanyahu’s speech?
 
Along with Speaker Boehner and most Republicans, Prime Minister Netanyahu openly opposes the Iran negotiations, and he has publicly announced that the purpose of his address is to scuttle them. That’s in neither country’s best interest?—?a comprehensive nuclear deal would make Israel, the United States, and the world safer.
 
The Prime Minister is currently running for reelection, and he has used his opposition to the negotiations as a major talking point. Election Day in Israel is on March 17, and Speaker Boehner’s invitation will allow Prime Minister Netanyahu to use a joint session as a venue for a stump speech. His political party has even used clips of his past addresses to Congress in campaign advertisements, which my colleagues and I are legally prohibited from doing.
 
Speaker Boehner knows that it is inappropriate to allow a foreign head of state to campaign on the House floor. House and Senate Democrats and the President have warned the Speaker that Netanyahu’s address could upend the nuclear negotiations at a critical point. That’s why his invitation was extended without the usual consultation of bipartisan leadership and the normal notification of and consultation with the President.
 
The fact is, this address should not be occurring in the first place, and abstention from attendance is therefore a particularly appropriate response.
 
I remain a strong and steadfast supporter of the US-Israeli security relationship, and of a negotiated two-state agreement that allows Israel and the Palestinians to live side-by-side in peace. Despite political disagreements, I have met with dozens of Israeli leaders in furtherance of the values and interests that unite our two countries.
 
An open dialogue is fundamental to our special relationship with Israel, and I will always be ready to engage in important conversations with Israeli leaders from across the political spectrum. But Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address to Congress won’t help foster dialogue; it will further divide us and could risk politicizing our special relationship with Israel. I refuse to be a part of that.
 
But I do not plan to attend Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech, nor do many of my colleagues.
 
For the past several years, the United States has been part of an international coalition engaged in historic negotiations with Iran, aimed at stopping and rolling back the Iranian nuclear program. Our negotiators, working in tandem with diplomats from the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany, have made remarkable progress, and recent reports suggest that the international coalition is inching closer to a comprehensive agreement that would effectively end Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons.
 
These negotiations rely on a very delicate diplomatic balance, where relatively insignificant events could prompt Iran to leave the negotiations or upset the coalition and undermine the effectiveness of the sanctions regime that first brought Iran to the table. I have strongly advocated for giving the negotiators the time and space to do their jobs, lobbying my colleagues against rash, unilateral congressional action aimed at antagonizing the Iranians or expressing no-confidence in our Administration.
 
So what does this have to do with Netanyahu’s speech?
 
Along with Speaker Boehner and most Republicans, Prime Minister Netanyahu openly opposes the Iran negotiations, and he has publicly announced that the purpose of his address is to scuttle them. That’s in neither country’s best interest?—?a comprehensive nuclear deal would make Israel, the United States, and the world safer.
 
The Prime Minister is currently running for reelection, and he has used his opposition to the negotiations as a major talking point. Election Day in Israel is on March 17, and Speaker Boehner’s invitation will allow Prime Minister Netanyahu to use a joint session as a venue for a stump speech. His political party has even used clips of his past addresses to Congress in campaign advertisements, which my colleagues and I are legally prohibited from doing.
 
Speaker Boehner knows that it is inappropriate to allow a foreign head of state to campaign on the House floor. House and Senate Democrats and the President have warned the Speaker that Netanyahu’s address could upend the nuclear negotiations at a critical point. That’s why his invitation was extended without the usual consultation of bipartisan leadership and the normal notification of and consultation with the President.
 
The fact is, this address should not be occurring in the first place, and abstention from attendance is therefore a particularly appropriate response.
 
I remain a strong and steadfast supporter of the US-Israeli security relationship, and of a negotiated two-state agreement that allows Israel and the Palestinians to live side-by-side in peace. Despite political disagreements, I have met with dozens of Israeli leaders in furtherance of the values and interests that unite our two countries.
 
An open dialogue is fundamental to our special relationship with Israel, and I will always be ready to engage in important conversations with Israeli leaders from across the political spectrum. But Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address to Congress won’t help foster dialogue; it will further divide us and could risk politicizing our special relationship with Israel. I refuse to be a part of that.
 
But I do not plan to attend Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech, nor do many of my colleagues.
 
For the past several years, the United States has been part of an international coalition engaged in historic negotiations with Iran, aimed at stopping and rolling back the Iranian nuclear program. Our negotiators, working in tandem with diplomats from the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany, have made remarkable progress, and recent reports suggest that the international coalition is inching closer to a comprehensive agreement that would effectively end Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons.
 
These negotiations rely on a very delicate diplomatic balance, where relatively insignificant events could prompt Iran to leave the negotiations or upset the coalition and undermine the effectiveness of the sanctions regime that first brought Iran to the table. I have strongly advocated for giving the negotiators the time and space to do their jobs, lobbying my colleagues against rash, unilateral congressional action aimed at antagonizing the Iranians or expressing no-confidence in our Administration.
 
So what does this have to do with Netanyahu’s speech?
 
Along with Speaker Boehner and most Republicans, Prime Minister Netanyahu openly opposes the Iran negotiations, and he has publicly announced that the purpose of his address is to scuttle them. That’s in neither country’s best interest?—?a comprehensive nuclear deal would make Israel, the United States, and the world safer.
 
The Prime Minister is currently running for reelection, and he has used his opposition to the negotiations as a major talking point. Election Day in Israel is on March 17, and Speaker Boehner’s invitation will allow Prime Minister Netanyahu to use a joint session as a venue for a stump speech. His political party has even used clips of his past addresses to Congress in campaign advertisements, which my colleagues and I are legally prohibited from doing.
 
Speaker Boehner knows that it is inappropriate to allow a foreign head of state to campaign on the House floor. House and Senate Democrats and the President have warned the Speaker that Netanyahu’s address could upend the nuclear negotiations at a critical point. That’s why his invitation was extended without the usual consultation of bipartisan leadership and the normal notification of and consultation with the President.
 
The fact is, this address should not be occurring in the first place, and abstention from attendance is therefore a particularly appropriate response.
 
I remain a strong and steadfast supporter of the US-Israeli security relationship, and of a negotiated two-state agreement that allows Israel and the Palestinians to live side-by-side in peace. Despite political disagreements, I have met with dozens of Israeli leaders in furtherance of the values and interests that unite our two countries.
 
An open dialogue is fundamental to our special relationship with Israel, and I will always be ready to engage in important conversations with Israeli leaders from across the political spectrum. But Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address to Congress won’t help foster dialogue; it will further divide us and could risk politicizing our special relationship with Israel. I refuse to be a part of that.