U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz will not attend the joint meeting of Congress with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next month.
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono wants the House speaker to work with the president on the invitation to Israel’s leader.
In a statement from his office Tuesday, Schatz said:
“The U.S.-Israel relationship is too important to be overshadowed by partisan politics. I am disappointed in the Republican leadership’s invitation of Prime Minister Netanyahu to address a joint meeting of Congress with the apparent purpose of undermining President Obama’s foreign policy prerogatives.
“Congress has a longstanding tradition of bipartisanship in foreign policy. It is a tradition that began in the Senate when in 1947, Senator Arthur Vandenberg (R-MI), as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, declared that we must “stop partisan politics at the water’s edge.”
We must continue that important tradition. I will not be attending Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech because it does more harm than good to the bipartisan U.S.-Israel alliance.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in 2011.
The Hawaii senator joins “more than a dozen congressional Democrats” who plan to skip the March 3 address, The Hill reports. The Hill also reports that Schatz is one of only two Jews — the other is Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent who caucuses with Democrats — declining to attend.
Netanyahu was invited to address Congress by House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, without the White House’s knowledge. The apparent violation of protocol — and the fact that Netanyahu and President Barack Obama have clashed over policy regarding Iran, among other things — prompted the boycott, which is reported to be growing. Netanyahu also faces a re-election challenge next month.
UPDATED: It’s unclear whether Hirono and Reps. Tulsi Gabbard and Mark Takai will attend the speech. But in a statement Tuesday, Hirono said:
“The U.S. Israel relationship is of such great importance that Congress has reaffirmed its bipartisan support of Israel time and again.
“The question is not whether or not Members should attend Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech next month but whether we should adhere to the usual way that these invitations to address Congress are extended. And that way is to work with the President, who is Constitutionally tasked with conducting foreign policy.
“I call upon Speaker Boehner to work with the President to extend this invitation.”
For his part, Takai released the following statement:
“It has become clear that the upcoming address by Prime Minister Netanyahu has become a highly politicized event, which is not what addresses to Joint Sessions of Congress are intended for. The process by which we openly debate foreign policy choices and the security of our allies should be one of the institutions of Congress, not a partisan process, and I believe that everyone should take a step back and figure out a way to rectify the situation.”
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