The Big Favor To Bibi

Up until now most U.S. commentators have viewed John Boehner’s invitation to Bibi Netanyahu to speak to Congress in the next few weeks as an effort to polarize sentiment on Iran sanctions legislation opposed by the president, and more specifically to put pressure on outspokenly pro-Israel Democrats to support a potential veto override.

But as reports from Israel indicate, the focus there is on Netanyahu using the speech to boost his own political standing in the runup to the March 17 elections. At Bloomberg Politics, Calev Ben-David notes the Israeli opposition views the whole thing as Bibi’s project, not Boehner’s:

Israeli opposition lawmakers criticized plans for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress on March 3, calling it a blatant political move at the height of Israel’s general election campaign…

Netanyahu “is attempting to infiltrate enemy territory” in Washington by using Congress to bypass the White House, Israeli lawmaker Nachman Shai of the opposition Labor Party said today on Israel Radio. Shai said that Israel’s Ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer led the process that produced the invitation, and that Netanyahu was “trampling on the framework of our relations with the U.S.” for domestic political gain ahead of a general election scheduled for March 17.

The opposition Meretz Party said it would file a complaint with the Central Elections Committee demanding that it prohibit Israeli television and radio stations from broadcasting Netanyahu’s congressional address. “This is a blatant violation of campaign laws,” Meretz spokeswoman Aya Mizrachi said by phone.

But the best evidence this is mostly about Bibi’s needs came from Boehner himself:

Boehner said today on his Twitter feed that the speech was moved from Feb. 11 to March 3 so that Netanyahu could attend the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that week in Washington. Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev had no comment on the invite.

It also moved the speech to just two weeks before the elections. Nothing like Bibi getting to strut his stuff at AIPAC and before Congress to create that “indispensable leader” aura, eh?

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.