House Speaker John A. Boehner said Wednesday he’s invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of Congress in February.
“In this time of challenge, I am asking the prime minister to address Congress on the grave threats radical Islam and Iran pose to our security and way of life,” Mr. Boehner said. “Americans and Israelis have always stood together in shared cause and common ideals, and now we must rise to the moment again.”
The invitation comes a day after President Obama told Congress he would veto any legislation imposing stiffer sanctions on Iran — a move that has bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, but which the president said would squelch chances for a deal to control Iran’s nuclear program, and could move closer to war.
The speech is slated for Feb. 11. Mr. Netanyahu has addressed Congress twice before, in 1996 and again in 2011.
Mr. Boehner, speaking to reporters after a GOP meeting, said he didn’t consult with the White House before issuing the invitation.
“The Congress can make this decision on its own. I don’t believe I’m poking anyone in the eye,” he said. “There is a serious threat that exists in the world. The president last night kind of papered over it.”
Mr. Boehner said the threat Mr. Netanyahu can speak to is two-fold: Iran’s nuclear program and the growing tide of radical Islam — a term the White House has shied away from, arguing that it tars a religion rather than focusing on the bad actors themselves.
Despite Mr. Obama’s veto threat, both sides of Congress are likely to try to pass sanctions legislation.
Even as Mr. Boehner was speaking, across the Capitol the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was grilling Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken over the administration’s opposition to Congress weighing in.
Mr. Blinken said Congress should hold off until it’s clear Iran is not complying with its obligations, and then move to impose additional sanctions. Acting before then could anger Iran, and could break up the international coalition that has successfully imposed sanctions to that have brought Iran to the table.
The White House said it was a breach of protocol for Mr. Boehner to invite a foreign head of state for such an event without first notifying President Obama.
“The typical protocol would suggest that the leader of a country would contact the leader of another country when he’s traveling there,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. “That certainly is how President Obama’s trips are planned when he travels overseas. This particular event seems to be a departure from that protocol.”
Mr. Earnest said the White House was notified Wednesday morning before Mr. Boehner’s announcement, and called it “interesting.” Asked if the president was annoyed, he said “no.”
“We’re going to reserve judgment on that until we’ve had an opportunityto speak to the Israelis about what their plans are for the trip and what he plans to say,” Mr. Earnest said.
Asked if the president would meet with Mr. Netanyahu, Mr. Earnest replied, “We haven’t heard from the Israelis directly about the trip.”
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SOURCE: The Washington Times