Fri Feb 6, 2015 2:31PM
US House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner misled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by telling him that both Republicans and Democrats would support his speech about Iran before Congress next month, a senior Israeli official says.
Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi acknowledged during an interview with 102 FM Tel Aviv Radio on Friday that Democratic lawmakers had been particularly “pained” by Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu to address the US Congress on Iran.
But he added that Netanyahu and Israeli envoys were making “a huge effort to make clear to them that this is not a move that flouts the president of the United States.”
Hours after US President Barack Obama threatened to veto any Iran sanctions bill during his State of the Union address on January 20, Boehner invited Netanyahu to Congress to speak about the “threat” of Iran while Tehran and world powers are still negotiating to reach a final nuclear agreement.
The invitation to address the new Republican-dominated Congress was extended without consultation with the White House or the State Department.
Netanyahu’s speech is scheduled for March 3, only two weeks before the Israeli premier stands for reelection on March 17.
An unnamed senior Obama administration official reportedly said that Netanyahu “spat in our face” by accepting an invitation to address Congress without coordinating with Obama.
“There are things you simply don’t do. He spat in our face publicly and that’s no way to behave,” he told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper late last month.
A number of Democrats in Congress have criticized Boehner for his unilateral invitation saying they will not attend Netanyahu’s address.
Hanegbi, who also a senior member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, said, “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 (Republicans and Democrats).”
However, he ruled out the possibility that Netanyahu would cancel his visit, saying that Israel cannot “forsake an arena in which there is a going to be a very dramatic decision (on Iran).”
He added that the Israeli premier would rather work hard to get the Iran sanctions bill passed from the Senate during his visit.
“The Republicans know, as the president has already made clear, that he will veto this legislation. So in order to pass legislation that overcomes the veto, two-thirds are required in the Senate. So if the prime minister can persuade another one or two or another three or four, this could have weight,” he said.