Israel is better off with America at its side, not just Republican Americans.
The same goes for America. Our nation benefits greatly from a robust partnership with Israel, a democratic friend in an increasingly hostile Middle East.
These are truths worth remembering as Congress chooses up sides for a highly controversial speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that is meant to undermine negotiations to curb Iran’s nuclear program. In a bald breach of protocol, Republican House Speaker John Boehner invited Netanyahu without informing the Democrat in the White House, who sees negotiations with Iran as the best hope for preventing that country from obtaining a nuclear bomb.
The alternative is military action. Like President Obama, we’d rather take a shot at peace first.
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Netanyahu’s speech before Congress is a mistake, and senators and representatives are right to boycott it. U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, who is Jewish and a long-time Israel supporter, said on Wednesday that she will skip the March 3 address. We urge all members of Congress committed to America’s long-standing bipartisan support for Israel to sit on the sidelines with her.
Netanyahu’s ulterior political motive is barely disguised: To boost his position domestically two weeks ahead of Israeli elections. Boehner’s aim, similarly, is to exploit kinks in Congress’ bipartisan support for Israel, to the advantage of Republicans.
The political games pose real-world risks.
A March 31 deadline looms for the outline of an agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program and recent progress is encouraging, with talks to resume next week. Netanyahu’s ill-timed speech threatens to undercut those delicate negotiations, giving Iran reason to walk away. Let’s keep the door open for a deal and, if one is reached, let’s see what it says before passing judgment. Netanyahu has already decided any deal is a bad deal, but military action has a way of going horribly wrong in the Middle East.
The Netanyahu-Boehner scheme threatens to splinter broad American support for Israel, as well as America’s ability to speak with one clear voice on foreign affairs.
For decades, America’s bipartisan support for Israel has allowed the U.S. to be a strong partner — and have a strong partner — in the Middle East. Threaten this bipartisan resolve, as Netanyahu’s scheduled speech to Congress does, and he and Boehner could weaken a long, fruitful and essential friendship. They risk doing real and lasting harm to both Israel and the U.S.