What happened on March 3 in Congress was humiliating.
The Prime Minister of a U.S. close ally managed to speak to a joint session of Congress despite the fact that the President was not the one to invite him to Washington and, in fact, made clear his strong opposition to the speech.
Furthermore, as if that were not enough, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech was broadcast live on several American television networks as though he were … the President!
Of course, Netanyahu is not just any Prime Minister. He is the leader of Israel, clearly America’s staunchest ally in the Middle East.
And the invitation was made by the Republicans, who control both the House and the Senate, in order to give Netanyahu the opportunity to torpedo a pending agreement between the United States and Iran regarding the latter’s nuclear program.
Many might wonder: “How can we allow a foreign leader to impose his policy on our country?”
But this is not the first time that the head of another nation’s government has been invited to speak before Congress. The only difference is, those speeches were made either by the invitation of the American President at the time, or with his approval.
How, then, does Netanyahu wield such power and influence in America, to make it to Capitol Hill and entirely bypass the White House?
When you have at your disposal the political influence, economic power and – justified – passion with which our Jewish- American friends support Israel, you use it. One cannot help but admire them.
And for us Greeks, it is natural to be even a little jealous. It is impossible not to want to emulate them.
One can also argue that this episode can be turned into a positive thing by our government, to help serve America’s best interests. It can be used as a reason to press Iran for more concessions.
Moreover, President Obama’s more balanced approach to Middle East policy, while seen as betrayal by strong Israel supporters can be viewed as a courageous alternative approach.
It might encourage Arabs to be more forthcoming in joining America’s effort to combat terror in that region.
Regardless of these possibilities, there is no doubt that relations between Israel and the United States will withstand the test they currently endure by the chilly if not abrasive relationship between their respective leaders.
Nonetheless, though we have consistently supported Israel’s right to exist and promoted on these pages and elsewhere friendship and mutual support between Israel and Greece long before that became fashionable, we must point out that this time, Netanyahu went too far.
Just because he has the power to do so, based on his tremendous influence with House Speaker John Boehner and Congress’ pro-Israel lobby does not mean he should humiliate the American President.
Netanyahu’s behavior left a bitter taste among the general public and could harm short-term relations between the two countries.
It is also likely that the Republicans will be hurt by this maneuver as well. Had a Republican won the Presidency in 2012 who proposed the same nuclear agreement with Iran – even if Boehner disagreed with it, would Boehner have gone so far as to invite Netanyahu?
Was this really on principle or yet another opportunity to stick it to Obama? Besides, Boehner set a precedent which, soon enough, might come back to haunt a Republican President falling victim to the same treatment by a Democratic Congress.
It will take time, and new leaders to heal the wounds from this episode. Netanyahu gained only a Pyrrhic victory.Source: The National Herald