John Boehner has invited Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to address the House of Rep, and Netanyahu has accepted. The White House, through press secretary Josh Earnest, responded by alleging a breach of protocol.
Boehner denied the breach. He replied:
The Congress can make this decision on its own. I don’t believe I’m poking anyone in the eye.
There is a serious threat that exists in the world and the president, last night, kind of papered over it. And the fact is, is that there needs to be a more serious conversation in America about ho serious the threat is from radical Islamic jihadists and the threat posed by Iran.
Very true. But the White House didn’t claim that Boehner violated protocol by inviting Netanyahu. Its grievance, predictably, was with the Israeli Prime Minister.
Here is what Earnest said:
The protocol would suggest that the leader of one country would contact the leader of another country when he’s traveling there.
In other words, Netanyahu is at fault for not talking to Obama before accepting Boehner’s invitation.
This is typical of the Obama administration’s dealings with Netanyahu. It plays offense against Israel by drumming up grievances, hoping to put Netanyahu on the back foot.
The best example was when the administration seized on the issuance by Israel’s bureaucracy of a procedural order on building housing in East Jerusalem while Joe Biden happened to be in Isarel as the pretext for reading Netanyahu the riot act. Obama’s purpose, of course, was to influence Israeli policy, and it worked up to a point.
Now the administration is drawing from the same playbook. It hopes that accusing Netanyahu of a violation of protocol will cause him to water down his remarks to Congress.
Did Netanyahu violate protocol? I don’t know. But if he did, the violation is less egregious than the breach Obama committed in 2010 when he abruptly walked out of talks with Netanyanu at the White House to eat dinner, leaving the Prime Minister of Israel to cool his heels in a White House meeting room for more than an hour.
And what about the breach that occurred when a senior White House official told journalist Jeffrey Goldberg that Netanyahu was nothing more than a “coward” and “chickens***”? I doubt that Angier Biddle Duke would have approved.
Netanyahu has understood that, given Israel’s reliance on the U.S., he cannot react too strongly to Obama’s slights and his contempt. Even in his lame duck days, the U.S. president can do Israel much harm.
But Netanyahu presumably now realizes that Obama’s dealings with Iran will likely redound to Israel’s serious detriment regardless of the extent to which Israel observes “protocol.” Congress is Israel’s friend; Obama is not. Thus, the need to appeal directly to that body.
If consulted about Boehner’s offer, there’s a good chance Obama would have discouraged Netanyahu from accepting. Netanyahu would then have faced the choice of ignoring Obama’s views or missing an opportunity to advance Israel’s interests.
By not consulting, Netanyahu avoided the dilemma. If he also poked Obama in the eye, it’s no less than the Prime Minister’s arrogant adversary deserved.