Mon Feb 9, 2015 2:23PM
Several pro-Israel lobby groups in the United States have threatened to “publicly condemn” Democrats who plan to skip the Israeli prime minister’s speech about Iran before Congress next month.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s well-funded Jewish conservative backers say they may use their funds to draw attention in the districts and states of any Democratic lawmaker who is not at the US Capitol to listen to Netanyahu on March 3.
Netanyahu has been invited by House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner to address a joint session of Congress to speak about the “threat” of Iran’s nuclear energy program.
“This is, I think, a critical visit by the prime minister. If these Democrats would rather put partisan politics ahead of principle and walk out on the prime minister of Israel, then we have an obligation to make that known,” said Matt Brooks, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, a political lobbying group which promotes Jewish Republicans.
“We will commit whatever resources we need to make sure that people are aware of the facts,” Brooks said. He did not specify what methods this campaign would use, but promised that his group would do whatever it can.
Other Zionist organizations are sending similar messages. “We will, of course, be publicly condemning any Democrats who don’t show up for the speech, unless they have a doctor’s note,” said Mort Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, a prominent pro-Israel group with 30,000 members.
“It’s really an anti-American, anti-patriotic position to take,” Klein added.
AIPAC, the largest pro-Israel lobby in the US, is encouraging members of Congress to attend the speech, although the group also has reservations because it is turning into a partisan event.
Growing criticism over Netanyahu speech
Democrats are angry over Boehner’s invitation of the Israeli premier, which was planned without the knowledge of the Obama administration.
The event will take place just two weeks before the Israeli elections, which is seen by the White House and senior Democrats as particularly manipulative. The White House has called the invitation a breach of protocol.
President Barack Obama would not meet with Netanyahu during his trip to Washington, according to the White House. Vice President Joe Biden’s office also confirmed on Friday that he would not be present during Netanyahu’s speech.
It seems Netanyahu plans to go ahead with the trip despite growing criticism both in Israel and the United States. The Israeli prime minister says he will address Congress to lobby against a “bad and dangerous” nuclear deal with Iran.
Iran and the P5+1 group – the US, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany – are in talks to narrow their differences and pave the way for a final, long-term nuclear accord.
The Republican-controlled Congress, however, is pushing a new round of sanctions on Iran, despite the veto threat from the White House and warnings that additional sanctions at this juncture risked derailing the nuclear talks.
Iran argues that as a committed signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.