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ND Expert: Netanyahu Visit Snarls Domestic Politics and International Diplomacy

Author: Michael O. Garvey

Michael Desch Michael Desch

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington in March will likely include an address to a joint session of the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress. House Speaker John Boehner extended and Netanyahu accepted the invitation without consulting President Barack Obama.

According to Michael C. Desch, professor and chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame, Netanyahu’s address, two weeks in advance of an Israeli election, violates “a long-standing tradition of politics stopping at the water’s edge and for the U.S. government to uphold a common front in dealing with other countries, whether allies or adversaries.”

“The Obama administration is understandably annoyed that the Republican leadership of Congress has invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to address a joint session,” Desch said. “Netanyahu is clearly playing politics in accepting this invitation considering he is standing for re-election back home, and a bully pulpit in the capital of the free world will give him a leg up over his rivals. The Obama administration publicly opposes this visit on the grounds that it does not want to meddle in Israeli domestic politics, which is what Netanyahu is doing here.

“Indeed, the subtext of this Beltway brouhaha is that the president and the Republican leadership in Congress are at loggerheads about various Middle East issues, especially increasing sanctions on the mullahs in Iran,” Desch said. “It is certainly not in America’s interest to let domestic political squabbles taint our foreign policy. Moreover, Netanyahu may be too clever by half in chasing the short-term boost of this high-profile speech at the cost of incurring the president’s anger for the next two years.”

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