We thought we’ve seen everything,” Israel Daily Ha’aretz quoted a senior US official as saying. “But Bibi managed to surprise even us.”
According to the paper, “chickenshit” the word the White House called Netanyahu a few months ago, was nothing compared to the cusses used at the White House when they found out that Bibi was coming to DC to speak before Congress.
“There are things you simply don’t do. He spat in our face publicly and that’s no way to behave. Netanyahu ought to remember that President Obama has a year and a half left to his presidency, and that there will be a price,” he said.
Netanyahu’s speech is supposed to cover the War On Terror and the Iranian nuclear program, and will be made just before the US/Iranian deadline to produce a “framework” of an agreement.
Just the week before the announcement of the invite, Obama called Bibi and delivered a “warning not to meddle in the battle he is waging against Congress over the sanctions legislation, the official said.”
At Netanyahu’s behest, both Israeli Ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer and members of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, have been urging members of Congress in recent weeks to advance legislation to impose new sanctions on Iran. Netanyahu has also urged new sanctions on Iran in all his meetings with American legislators, including his meeting earlier this week with a delegation headed by Republican Senator John McCain.
The White House is well aware of the efforts Netanyahu and Dermer have been making to advance sanctions legislation, as senior Republican legislators have made no effort to hide them. One senior Republican senator, Lindsey Graham, who has visited Israel twice in recent weeks, has been particularly outspoken. In a joint statement issued at the start of a meeting between Graham and Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on December 29, Netanyahu declared on camera that new sanctions on Iran are needed. Graham then responded, also on camera, that Congress “will follow your lead” on the Iranian issue, and that new sanctions legislation would be brought to a vote soon.
On the other hand Bibi is well aware of what was reveled at Tuesday’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, that the US is no longer negotiating with Iran to end its nuclear program. Should Iran develop nuclear weapons it would be an existential threat to Israel (and the United States also).
Netanyahu’s office tried to soften the severity of
the clash with the White House. The PM’s office
stressed that the invitation was made “in the name
of the bipartisan leadership within the House of
Representatives and the Senate,” and added that
“speaking before both houses of Congress will allow
for the prime minster to thank President Obama,
Congress, and the American people for supporting
But in the end, the Israeli Premier must have known what he Administration’s reaction would be and must have weighed it before accepting the invite (which was being negotiated between the speaker and the PM for weeks). Perhaps he was willing to take the risk because both the GOP and Democrats support new sanctions. Or he realized there was no way to repair his relationship with this administration.
Hopefully Bibi has a strategy to deal with the repercussions form an Obama administration whose policy is already anti-Israel.