Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to make the support of Israel (really the policies of his current government of Israel) a partisan issue in the US is beyond unwise. By accepting Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to address Congress without even notifying the President of the United States, Netanyahu has ended decades of bipartisan support for Israel.
It’s a terrible decision for Israel. His appearance violates diplomatic protocol, if you care about those things (I do). But, even if you’re a scorched-earth, no-manners political Luddite, accepting an invitation that slaps that face of the President, of the Democratic party, and of Americans who have read the Constitution, has only practical downsides.
The traditional near-universal support for Israel is dead the moment Netanyahu opens his mouth in Congress. After Speaker Boehner welcomes him and the rabid Right applauds the stunning disrespect to President Obama that Netanyahu’s appearance personifies, Israel will have become just another example of Republican ill-thought-out positions. It’s going to be so easy to lump together climate change denial, vaccine fear mongering, and support of Israel.
Netanyahu’s open alliance with the Republicans who are pushing for US military action in the endless wars of the Middle East taints all backing of Israel. Netanyahu, like his Republican friends, is an advocate of force, force, and more force. Israel’s current government doesn’t want the United States talking to Iran. They want America to mount a military attack as our first response.
The United States has a strong interest in preventing Iran from building nuclear bombs. But, we also have a legitimate interest in avoiding troop deployments, foreign quagmires, and the collateral deaths of civilians. It is not in our interest to go to war simply because Netanyahu thinks we should.
Frankly, Netanyahu’s alignment with the Republicans undercuts any pleas for support that he or future Prime Ministers will make. Quite simply, Netanyahu is a foreign politician so self-righteous and disrespectful of American democracy that he is calling into question the civic morality of the nation he leads.
About the only way out I see right now is for Netanyahu to suddenly catch the flu and decide he cannot make the trip after all. Because if he does speak in Washington, that act will reset American-Israeli relations. The new relationship will be more logical, distant, and cooler. It will not be a good change for Israel.