House Speaker John Boehner invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress in February so that Netanyahu could tell Congress that President Barack Obama is wrong about negotiating with Iran over their nuclear weapons program. It appears that Netanyahu and Boehner have worked out a deal that benefits both of them.

Netanyahu is running for re-election in Israeli and an address to Congress may boast his ratings in Israel. Meanwhile, Boehner is happy to have a foreign leader speak against Obama's foreign policy toward Iran.


The Obama administration, along with several other European nations, including France, Germany and Britain, are in the middle of negotiations with Iran to convince the country to stop its nuclear weapons program. Republicans in Congress, along with a handful of Democrats, don't want a negotiated settlement with Iran. Like Netanyahu, they would prefer to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities instead of reaching a more long-term agreement that would allow Iran to develop nuclear power, but not nuclear weapons.

Accepting the invitation without going through normal protocols with the White House and the State Department, Netanyahu is, according to Ed Kilgore of the Washington Monthly, exposing his "habit of indiscretion in seeking to manipulate partisan divisions in this country in pursuit of his own interests." Meanwhile, says Kilgore, Republicans in Congress "would like to see talks with Iran fail and be replaced by nothing but increased hostility and suspicion, and they're calling on Netanyahu to help them."

Speaking of indiscretion, Republicans in Congress are, in effect, calling on the leader of another nation to team up with them against their own president. "After all," says Aaron Miller writing for The Daily Beast, "Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson is one of Netanyahu's most avid supporters," and those who support Netanyahu also receive campaign funds from Adelson.

Interestingly, the Israeli intelligence agency does not agree with Netanyahu regarding the Iranian talks. It has reported that additional congressional sanctions supported by Netanyahu and conservatives in Congress would destroy the potential for a long-term peaceful negotiation between the West and Iran. They agree with Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to Republican presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, who recommends that Congress let the talks continue "and not take steps which would destroy the negotiations."

The timing of Netanyahu's visit was recently pushed back to March as Netanyahu has received significant push-back at home and around the world for what most diplomats consider a diplomatic blunder. Meanwhile, the White House and State Department have stated that there will not be any formal meetings with Netanyahu when he visits Congress, even in March.

Some have stated that the Boehner-Netanyahu maneuver has clearly put Netanyahu in the Republican camp and that, in the long-term, Netanyahu is hurting Israel. Martin Indyk, former ambassador to Israel, stated that "Republicans are using Netanyahu for their campaign against Obama," but that it "would be far wiser for us to stay out of their politics and for them to stay out of ours."

Indeed, Israel has always enjoyed bipartisan support in the United States and receives $3 billion annually in foreign aid from the United States. Insulting a significant portion of the U.S. electorate isn't very smart on Netanyahu's part, especially given the shifting demographics in the United States. Netanyahu is responsible for the growing isolation of Israel in the world, and a growing number of Americans are growing tired of his endless calls for war at our expense.

As far as Boehner is concerned, using a foreign leader to publicly stick it to the President of the United States on a serious foreign policy issue has already made him look like a fool, and speaks to the state of American politics today.

Tom Zirpoli writes from Westminster. His column appears on Wednesdays. Email him at tzirpoli@mcdaniel.edu.