The audience for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress on March 3 is shaping up to be largely Republican — and almost completely white.
Many members of the Congressional Black Caucus say they’re planning to skip the speech, calling it a slight to President Barack Obama that they can’t and won’t support.
Israeli officials have been taken by surprise by the CBC backlash, kicked off by Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a civil rights leader who said last week he won’t attend, quickly followed by Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and others. As a result, they’re working to set up a meeting for CBC members with Ambassador Ron Dermer — or even Netanyahu himself when he’s in Washington.
“To me, it is somewhat of an insult to the president of the United States,” said Rep. Greg Meeks (D-N.Y.), leaving the White House on Tuesday after a long meeting with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, who also will miss the speech. “Barack Obama is my president. He’s the nation’s president, and it is clear, therefore, that I’m not going to be there, as a result of that, not as a result of the good people of Israel.”
Netanyahu’s speech to Congress, scheduled just two weeks before Israeli national elections, is aimed at stopping a deal with Iran over its nuclear weapons program — a diplomatic opening Obama administration officials believe could reintegrate Iran into the international community and enhance Israel’s security. Netanyahu, however, feels the United States and its international partners are being naive about Iran’s true intent.
“I’m determined to speak before Congress to stop Iran,” Netanyahu tweeted on Tuesday.
SOURCE: EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE and LAUREN FRENCH