Not a Breach of Protocol for Boehner, But a Bad Idea For Bibi

So Speaker John Boehner has invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress next month in advance of votes on new sanctions against Iran, which the Obama administration, engaged in negotiations with Tehran, vehemently opposes. The White House immediately criticized the invitation as involving a “breach of protocol,” though I believe what they’re actually saying is that it would violate diplomatic niceties if Bibi accepted the invitation without discussing the matter with the executive branch.

To be clear, the Speaker of the House can invite anybody he wants to address Congress, and the president cannot do much about it. So while the invitation is not a breach of protocol for Boehner, it’s a really bad idea for Bibi. Not only will it further alienate the people who actually conduct America’s foreign policies; it will also expose Netanyahu’s habit of indiscretion in seeking to manipulate partisan divisions in this country in pursuit of his own interests. I’m sure his defenders will make the plea that Iran’s nuclear program represents an “existential threat” to Israel, making all normal diplomatic rules disposable. But since everybody agrees that Iran’s a major global problem and disagree on how to deal with it, Netanyahu would be better advised to make his case in private. But bullying and excessively Machiavellian maneuvering do seem to be a basic part of his personality, I’m afraid.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.