Should Bibi Netanyahu Still Come to Speak to Congress?

In Blogs, Current Affairs by Chris KatulkaLeave a Comment

I’ve been watching the news closely, and at the top of my “Israel news” list is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to U.S. Congress: Should he or shouldn’t he?

Now, I could have weighed in on this headliner the moment it erupted a few weeks back, but I didn’t want simply say:

Of course he should come!

I wanted to wait some time to see where the story developed because I do believe it’s a delicate situation that does need to be handled properly.

All of the drama centers on President Obama’s refusal to meet with Netanyahu when he comes to speak. So what are some of the issues with Netanyahu coming to address Congress?

White House wasn’t notified:

First, there is the issue of a leader from another country coming to speak to Congress without being approved, welcomed, or invited by the White House. It was House Speaker John Boehner who reached out to the Israeli prime minister and said,  “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.” Boehner went around the White House inviting Netanyahu. White House press secretary said that there was a breach of protocol, and the White House should have been in the loop.

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However, this isn’t the first time Congress met with a nation’s leader against the will of the White House. It happened in 2007 when Nancy Pelosi met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against the wishes of the Bush Administration. I don’t remember the White House being so vocally negative toward Pelosi in 2007, as President Obama is today with Netanyahu’s visit.

So was Netanyahu wrong to accept Boehner’s invitation? You could say Netanyahu’s acceptance definitely stirred the American/Israeli pot, but if there is one thing Netanyahu knows it’s the dangers of a nuclear Iran. Since President Obama put the personal kabosh on entertaining any new sanctions on Iran from our legislators during his State of the Union address, Netanyahu––via Boehner––knew he should strike while the iron was hot to remind Congress and America not to go soft on Iran.

Israeli elections:

What really muddies the water over Netanyahu speaking to Congress is Israel’s up-and-coming elections for prime minister. According to President Obama, meeting with a head of state who is up for re-election could make it seem like a presidential endorsement, so he’d prefer to stay away from Netanyahu.

This really puts Bibi and Israel in an interesting position. Which will matter more to Israelis when they go to the voting box: White House support or a leader who holds fast to his convictions on Iran? Only time will tell.

Should he, or shouldn’t he:

So the question remains, should Netanyahu come, or should he stay home? I believe Netanyahu and the Israeli people he represents have the most to lose with a nuclear-armed Iran. Netanyahu has urged caution from the beginning when the six nations (P5+1) started entertaining the idea of loosening sanctions on Iran. So yes, he should come to make his case as he has been doing for years!

Netanyahu has an amazing platform for making his case to Congress and to the world. If there is one thing the Obama White House has done dramatizing the Netanyahu visit is give him a bigger platform. If he would have simply come to speak to Congress, national news would have covered it for one day, and you could watch it on C-Span. However, now the political drama has made this international headline news for the past two weeks. So whether you agree with Netanyahu or not on Iran, you may be more inclined to watch. Another good reason for him to come.

Finally, don’t forget: Obama’s promise to veto anything related to toughening sanctions on Iran comes after months of “testing” the Iranian waters and continually coming up empty handed. As Iran continues to create enriched uranium, major U.S. sanctions continue to be lifted, and we keep extending talks for negotiations, it’s easy to see that Iran is playing us like a fiddle. So Netanyahu has a moral imperative to state his case to a Congress and country that really has no say either way.


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Chris Katulka

Chris Katulka is the director of North American Ministries for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, the host of The Friends of Israel Today radio program, a Bible teacher, and writer for Israel My Glory magazine. He is also the author of Israel Always: Experiencing God’s Pursuit of You Through His Chosen People. If you would like to support Chris, please click here.

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