Why the president's plan to punish the Israeli prime minister backfired.
Despite two weeks of intense anti-Netanyahu leaks, insults, and pressure, the White House has so far succeeded in persuading only a handful of Democratic members of Congress to stay away from the speech.
A grand total of two Senators and twelve Representatives have publicly announced that they are boycotting Israel's prime minister. Assuming that those figures change only marginally in the days ahead, it will mean that 98% of the Senate and 95% of the House of Representatives will be in attendance.
Even the most vocal critics of Prime Minister Netanyahu, the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, are not united against the Israeli leader. Emerging from a meeting with President Obama last week, Caucus chairman Rep. G.K. Butterfield told reporters, that the subject of Netanyahu's speech "didn't come up" during their 90-minute meeting with the president. But he then proceeded to chastise Israel's prime minister for supposedly being "disrespectful" to the president, and Congressman Hank Johnson said it was "about President Barack Obama being a black man disrespected by a foreign leader."
But not all the African-American congress members joined the anti-Netanyahu chorus. U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), who is the only senator in the Congressional Black Caucus, refused to toe the line. The Politico reports that when his colleagues began lambasting Prime Minister Netanyahu, reporters asked Booker where he stood, and he pointedly dissented, saying "I've been asked that a number of times--I'm not commenting."
Knowing of Senator Booker's longtime support for Israel and close relationship with many American Jewish leaders, we find it difficult that he will go along with an insulting and disrespectful boycott of Israel's prime minister.
Another major crack in the anti-Netanyahu boycott effort appeared this weekend in the form of a message from Elie Wiesel in a full page advertisement in the New York Times and Washington Post, sponsored by "This World: The Values Network."
The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate has always been something of a moral compass for the Jewish people--certainly far more than the two or three Jewish organizational leaders who have been quoted as opposing Netanyahu's visit. We all remember Wiesel bravely confronting President Reagan over his visit to the Bitburg cemetery, not to mention his speaking out on so many other important issues over the years. So Wiesel's words in the Times and Post ads carry particular weight.
Wiesel announced that he will personally attend Netanyahu's speech. He appealed to President Obama and Vice President Biden to "put aside the politics" and hear what Israel's prime minister has to say. He pointed out that Netanyahu will speak to Congress the day before Purim--the day when, in ancient times, "a wicked man in Persia named Haman" sought to destroy the Jews…"Now Iran, modern Persia, has produced a new enemy," Wiesel wrote. "The Ayatollah Khomeini has been as clear as his predecessor in declaring his goal: 'the annihilation and destruction' of Israel. He is bent on acquiring the weapons needed to make good on the deadly promise."
Finally, it's worth mentioning another crack that appeared in the boycott effort this week. The pro-Palestinian lobbying group J Street, which has been the engine driving the boycott movement, has been circulating a poll claiming that 84% of American Jews support President Obama's position on Iran.
But now the fraudulent methods used to elicit that 84% number have been exposed. It turns out that the respondents were not asked about the actual terms that Obama is negotiating with Iran. They were asked whether they would support an imaginary agreement under which Iran would completely and permanently give up its capability to produce nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, that is not at all what President Obama is insisting upon, according to numerous news reports.
A genuinely objective poll, which asked American Jews whether they want the U.S. to insist that Iran be permanently prevented from having the ability to manufacture nuclear weapons, would surely find the vast majority of Jews in favor.
When Prime Minister Netanyahu appears next month before Congress, with the overwhelming majority of Congress members from both parties in attendance, he will explain the truth about the Iranian threat and the danger of the U.S. agreeing to weak and unenforceable terms.
And that, of course, is what the Obama Administration, J Street, and the other Netanyahu-bashers most wish to prevent.
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