Sources claim an Israeli official suggested Friday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been misled into thinking an invitation to address the U.S. Congress next month was fully supported by the Democrats.
Netanyahu was invited by the Republican speaker of the house, John Boehner, to address Congress on March 3, an invitation Boehner originally described as bipartisan. The topic of his speech would supposedly be relations with Iran.
The move angered the White House, which is upset that the event comes two weeks before Israeli elections and that Netanyahu is expected to be critical of U.S. policy on Iran. Most gatherings of this nature are organized between heads of state – not between a head of state and congress or parliament of another country.
“It appears that the speaker of Congress made a move, in which we trusted, but which it ultimately became clear was a one-sided move and not a move by both sides,” Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi told 102 FM Tel Aviv Radio on Friday.
Hanegbi is a senior member of Netanyahu’s Likud party.
The interviewer asked if that meant Netanyahu had been “misled” into believing Boehner’s invitation was bipartisan, a characterization Hanegbi did not contest.
Hanegbi did not say Netanyahu would refuse the invitation.
Asked whether the prime minister should cancel or postpone the speech, Hanegbi said: “What would the outcome be then? The outcome would be that we forsake an arena in which there is a going to be a very dramatic decision (on Iran).”
There has been much criticism of Boehner by Democrats and repeated statements by Boehner and other Republicans explaining their position.
Top Democratic lawmaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday the event was “politicized” and she hoped it would not take place. Also, the White House said it would not meet Netanyahu during the visit.
Netanyahu has denied seeking electoral gains or meddling in internal U.S. affairs with the speech, in which he is expected to warn world powers against agreeing to anything short of a total rollback of Iran’s nuclear program.
A Netanyahu spokesman declined to comment on Hanegbi’s comments on Friday.
Acknowledging that Democrats had been “pained” by the invitation, Hanegbi said Netanyahu and Israeli emissaries were making “a huge effort to make clear to them that this is not a move that flouts the president of the United States”.