Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu Says Obama Shouldn’t Take His Speech To Congress Personally

The Huffington Post

After coming under fire from several members of Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took to Twitter on Tuesday to defend a planned address to the legislative body next month and said his country had “profound disagreements” with the United States on its negotiations with Iran.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) invited Netanyahu to speak to Congress while the White House is trying to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran. President Barack Obama has said he will not meet with the prime minister during the visit because of its proximity to the Israeli elections, which are just two weeks later. The administration has said Netanyahu breached protocol by not consulting the White House beforehand.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu tweeted that the survival of his country is at stake and that this isn’t a personal dispute with Obama.

In a statement released Tuesday, Netanyahu reiterated that the dispute is “not a personal disagreement between President Obama and me.”

“I deeply appreciate all that he has done for Israel in many fields. Equally, I know that the President appreciates my responsibility, my foremost responsibility, to protect and defend the security of Israel,” he added.

On Monday, Obama said that he has “very real differences” with Netanyahu on the Iran negotiations. Obama has pushed Congress to hold off on new sanctions with Iran, arguing that they could thwart a long-term nuclear deal. Obama has urged Netanyahu to stop pushing Congress to impose new sanctions.

The proposed deal, Netanyahu said, would allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon “within a few years” that could destroy Israel.

At least 17 Democratic members of Congress announced they would not attend the speech, and Israeli officials were reportedly considering having Netanyahu address a closed-door meeting or the American Israel Public Affairs Committee annual meeting in Washington, D.C., though no changes have been announced.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who announced Tuesday that he would not attend, called the speech a “tawdry and high-handed stunt.”

Netanyahu’s address is set for March 3.

Senate Democrats Leave Door Open To Skip Netanyahu Speech



Only one senator asked by BuzzFeed News — Sen. Ben Cardin — said he’d definitely go.

WASHINGTON — When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint session of Congress in March, it is unclear whether everybody invited will actually show up.

Democrats have criticized House Speaker John Boehner for circumventing the administration when he invited Netanyahu to speak, and the White House has already said Obama will not meet with him when he’s here.

BuzzFeed News asked several Senate Democrats whether they planned on skipping the speech or not. Most said they either hadn’t thought about it or they hadn’t decided. But there were no hard answers in the negative. Only one senator definitively said he would go.

Sen. Tim Kaine, who serves on both the Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees and recently traveled to Israel, said it’s “too early” to decide whether he’ll attend or not.

“It is not the norm to do this right before an election and it is being widely reported in the Israeli press as the U.S. expressing some kind of a preference,” Kaine said.

Sen. Chris Murphy expressed a similar sentiment.

“I’m sick about the fact that protocol has been violated, but you know, I’m always eager to hear what he has to say,” Sen. Chris Murphy said. “It’s not something that I have thought about one way or the other.”

A Democratic aide said their office was only informed of the scheduled date on Thursday and it was unclear if “anything’s been discussed at this point by anyone in the Senate.”

Netanyahu’s arrival will come at a tense time. He’s up for re-election in mid-March and many have said they are uncomfortable having him make a political speech to Congress so close to that vote. The U.S. is also in talks with Iran over its nuclear program.

Netanyahu is slated to address Congress on March 3.

When asked whether he’d attend, Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said he’d “figure that out later.”

Sen. Chris Coons, who serves on the Foreign Relations Committee, said, “I’ll be weighing what’s the best thing to do.”

“I remain hopeful that his address would be delayed until after their election,” the Delaware Democrat told BuzzFeed News.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein declined to comment. Sen. Ed Markey referred BuzzFeed News to his press office.

Sen. Ben Cardin, a senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee, was the lone senator who said he would attend no matter what.

“I’d be more than happy to meet with opposition leaders if they want to meet with us, give them opportunities, etcetera,” Cardin told BuzzFeed News. “But if the Prime Minister of Israel addresses a joint session of Congress, I would be there.”

Speaking at the Democrat retreat in Philadelphia Wednesday night, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi warned of the effects a visit from Netanyahu could have on the Iran talks.

“In terms of invitations to speak to Congress — the Prime Minister has spoken two times. The only person who has spoken more is Winston Churchill,” Pelosi said. “One of the times, my father was in the room; Dec. 26 — the day after Christmas — 1941, right when we were going into World War II. It’s a serious, big honor that we extend. That it should be extended two weeks before an election in a country, without collaboration among the leaders of Congress, and without collaboration with the White House, is not appropriate. It is not appropriate.”

Upcoming Congressional Speech Backfires on Boehner, Netanhayu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyah Photo: AFP/GETTY – 1/25/15

Here’s interesting news from NBC including the blow-back both Boehner and Netanhayu are receiving from politicos and news organizations and in Netahayu’s case, from his own citizens back in Isreal.

NBC News First Read


If the goal of House Speaker John Boehner asking Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to address Congress in early March was to undermine the Obama administration’s nuclear negotiations with Iran, well, that backfired — at least in the short term. On Tuesday, a key group of Senate Democrats, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Bob Menendez “told the White House they will hold their fire on Iran sanctions until March 24, taking pressure off the Obama administration as it seeks to complete negotiations about the country’s nuclear program,” NBC’s Frank Thorp reports. The reason why it backfired: By scheduling the speech without the White House’s blessing — plus two weeks before Israel’s own elections — it came across as entirely political. And it ultimately turned into Democratic-vs.-Republican fight. “Israel has been, for several decades, a bipartisan cause in Washington,” the Atlantic’s Jeffery Goldberg writes. But he adds that Netanyahu’s poor relationship with Obama — including this most recent end-run around the White House — alienates Democratic lawmakers (“One Jewish member of Congress told me that he felt humiliated and angered by Netanyahu’s ploy to address Congress ‘behind the president’s back'”) and American Jews (who overwhelmingly voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012).

Bibi is now getting blowback at home

And the New York Times writes that Netanyahu is now getting some serious blowback at home with the elections coming up. “Yehuda Ben Meir, an expert on public opinion at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said surveys had consistently shown that Israelis see a decrease in American support and a nuclear-armed Iran ‘as the two most serious threats, almost equal in severity.’ Israelis are highly critical of Mr. Obama, and may appreciate Mr. Netanyahu’s standing up to him, but losing congressional Democrats, Mr. Ben Meir said, would play differently. ‘Most people in Israel feel or think or believe that mainly this was done for internal political reasons,’ Mr. Ben Meir said. ‘His base may say he went because of the Iranian issue, but those swing voters – and what’s important is always the swing vote – it could among certain parts of the electorate harm him. It might be that he didn’t properly estimate the fallout.'”

White House yanks plan to roll back 529 accounts

Backfiring and blowback also applied to President Obama’s proposed elimination of 529 college-saving plans. Indeed, the White House quickly reversed course on Tuesday and dropped the proposal. “We proposed it because we thought it was a sensible approach, part of consolidating six programs to two and expanding and better targeting education tax relief for the middle class,” an administration official told NBC News. “Given it has become such a distraction, we’re not going to ask Congress to pass the 529 provision.” There are two big lessons here: One, it shows why tax reform is SO HARD; you touch one popular tax break (even if it makes ton of economic/efficiency sense), and folks will scream bloody murder. Two, it’s a story about the political/journalist class. Raise your hand if you have one of these 529 accounts for your children or grandchildren. As one observer tweeted, “You can see the major class bias of many journalists when they act as though *everyone* benefited from the 529 program.” In fact, the benefits under the program are disproportionately skewed to Americans earning six figures or above — who represent just a sliver of the population. Still, we’re surprised the White House didn’t see this blowback coming when it first proposed the plan.

And that yanking came very quickly

Yet there’s another story here, too: That the White House yanked it SO QUICKLY — especially while the president was overseas — suggests it’s still holding out hope to strike some sort of tax deal with congressional Republicans. If you want to see tax reform happen in the 114th Congress, the speed of the Obama White House’s retraction might give you hope.

The Democrats’ danger of focusing so much on the middle class

A final related point to this 529 story: We get why the White House centered President Obama’s State of the Union speech on “middle class economics” — especially considering that the economic recovery hasn’t trickled down to the middle and lower classes. But there is a danger here for Obama’s team and the Democratic Party. You don’t want to be seen as the folks who are trying to keep Americans IN the middle class. Yes, many Americans are either in the middle class or think they’re in the middle class. But not everyone WANTS to be in the middle class forever; they might have their sights higher.

Senate Judiciary Committee holds confirmation hearing for AG nominee Loretta Lynch

Finally, Obama’s nominee to be his next U.S. attorney general, Loretta Lynch, today has her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. TheNew York Times sets the stage. “If she is confirmed, Ms. Lynch would be the nation’s first African-American woman to serve as attorney general. Her allies have sought to differentiate her from Mr. Holder, an outspoken liberal voice in the administration who clashed frequently with Republicans who accused him of politicizing the office. In particular, Ms. Lynch is expected to face tough questioning about her opinion of the president’s decision to unilaterally ease the threat of deportation for millions of unauthorized immigrants. Mr. Holder approved the legal justification for that action, enraging some Republicans. Ms. Lynch, the United States attorney in Brooklyn, will say that while she had no role in compiling the justification for the president’s action, the legal underpinning was reasonable, according to officials involved in her preparation.” The hearing begins at 10:00 am ET.

The White House Makes It Clear That Netanyahu Will Pay For Disrespecting President Obama

Obama and Netanyahu rangling over Iran – March 2012 | AFP Getty Images


The White House has been publicly calm about the blatant act of disrespect to President Obama orchestrated by Speaker Of The House John Boehner and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but privately administration officials are warning that there will be a price to be paid for his actions.


“Senior American official” as quoted by Haaretz: “We thought we’ve seen everything. But Bibi managed to surprise even us. There are things you simply don’t do. He spat in our face publicly and that’s no way to behave. Netanyahu ought to remember that President Obama has a year and a half left to his presidency, and that there will be a price.”

In a separate article on Haaretz an unidentified Democratic lawmaker suggested that was shooting himself in the foot by forcing Democrats to choose between Boehner and President Obama on the Iran sanctions bill, “Netanyahu is shooting himself in the foot, because by turning this into a partisan issue, he may be forcing some Democratic members to choose between Boehner and Obama, which, for them, is no choice at all.”

Republicans and conservative media are trying to twist this story to feed their narrative that President Obama hates Israel, but a more accurate description of what is happening is that Boehner and Netanyahu have conspired to disrespect the President Of The United States. The Israeli Prime Minister will likely regret his behavior because what goes around comes around.

Netanyahu openly buddied up to Mitt Romney in 2012, did everything that he could to get a fellow conservative war hawk elected president. Netanyahu’s antics aren’t playing well with American Jewish groups and his willingness to use his power as a foreign leader to get involved in a dispute between the executive and legislative branches of the United States government is almost as troubling as the the fact that John Boehner invited Netanyahu to address Congress for exactly this reason.

Barack Obama isn’t a president who bellows and rages. He doesn’t wear his emotions on his sleeve, but his administration doesn’t forget. When they say that there will be a price to be paid, that price will not be cheap.

Bachmann: ‘If We Reject Israel, Then There Is A Curse That Comes Into Play’

Imagine a President of the United States issuing such a statement!  Bachmann just proved she is not presidential material.


Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) has declared that America has a serious obligation to support Israel — and if not, God will curse the United States, and it will be the end of this country.

The Minnesota Independent –  

reports that Bachmann told the Republican Jewish Coalition, at an event last week in Los Angeles:

“I am convinced in my heart and in my mind that if the United States fails to stand with Israel, that is the end of the United States . . . [W]e have to show that we are inextricably entwined, that as a nation we have been blessed because of our relationship with Israel, and if we reject Israel, then there is a curse that comes into play. And my husband and I are both Christians, and we believe very strongly the verse from Genesis [Genesis 12:3], we believe very strongly that nations also receive blessings as they bless Israel. It is a strong and beautiful principle.”


Leaked Luntz Poll: Majority of Americans don’t support Israeli flotilla raid.

Think Progress

Via Didi Remez (whose Coteret blog has become an indispensable resource for progressives on Israel-Palestine issues), Israel’s Channel Ten TV News was leaked a memo on a Frank Luntz poll commissioned by the right-wing propaganda outfit The Israel Project analyzing the effectiveness of the Israeli government’s public diplomacy efforts around the Gaza flotilla raid.

A summary of the findings:

1. 56% of Americans agree with the claim that there is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza;
2. 43% of Americans agree with the claim that people in Gaza are starving;
3. 34% of Americans support the Israeli operation against the Flotilla;
4. 20% of Americans “felt support” for Israel following announcement of easing of Gaza closure.

Consider these numbers against the fact that 84 Senators and 298 Representatives — 71% of the U.S. Congress — signed an AIPAC-backed letter supporting the flotilla raid. The Israel Project has worked with Luntz before, and gotten in trouble for it. Last year, columnist Doug Bloomfield obtained a copy of the group’s “Global Language Dictionary,” developed in conjunction with Luntz, which advocated equating an end to illegal Israeli settlement building with “ethnic cleansing” against Jews. Last December, journalist Spencer Ackerman also discovered that The Israel Project was shopping around an anti-Iran petition loaded up with false signatures.

Israel Eases Gaza Blockade, Will Allow In All Goods Except For Weapons

Huffington Post

JERUSALEM — Israel’s government decided Sunday to draw up a list of items banned from Gaza limited to weapons and materials deemed to have military uses and said the easing of the three-year-old blockade of the Palestinian territory would be implemented immediately.

The list of banned goods replaces an old list of allowed items that permitted only basic humanitarian supplies for the 1.5 million Gazans. Under the new system, the government said practically all non-military items can enter Gaza freely.

“From now on, there is a green light of approval for all goods to enter Gaza except for military items and materials that can strengthen Hamas’ military machine,” Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said.

Israel decided on Thursday to ease the blockade under intense international pressure after its raid on a blockade-busting international flotilla bound for Gaza killed nine pro-Palestinian activists.

In a critical shift, Israel said it would allow construction materials into Gaza for projects approved by the Palestinian Authority, such as housing and schools, as long as the projects are under international supervision. Up to now, Israel has banned most construction materials, including cement.

Construction materials are a critical need in Gaza. Thousands of buildings were destroyed or damaged in Israel’s military operation in Gaza a year and a half ago, aimed at stopping years of daily rocket attacks by Gaza militants. Because of the blockade, little repair or rebuilding has been done since the war ended.

The list of banned items was not released Sunday, but the government said it will be published.    Continue reading…

Netanyahu: Activists On Board Ship Were ‘Thugs’ Who Came Prepared To Fight

Huffington Post

JERUSALEM — Israel’s prime minister claimed Sunday that the Turkish activists who battled Israeli naval commandos in a deadly clash last week prepared for the fight ahead of time, before boarding the ship in a different city from the rest of the passengers.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s charges highlight Israel’s frantic efforts to portray the activists as terrorists and counter a wave of harsh international condemnation that has left the Jewish state isolated and at odds with some of its closest allies.

Last Monday’s operation, in which nine activists were killed aboard a ship headed to the blockaded Gaza Strip, damaged Israel’s ties with Turkey – its main Muslim ally – and brought heavy pressure on Israel to lift the 3-year closure of Hamas-ruled Gaza.

Netanyahu told his Cabinet that “dozens of thugs” from “an extremist, terrorism-supporting” organization had readied themselves for the arrival of the naval commandos.

“This group boarded separately in a different city, organized separately, equipped itself separately and went on deck under different procedures,” he said. “The clear intent of this hostile group was to initiate a violent clash with (Israeli) soldiers.”

Late Sunday, Netanyahu’s office released a statement saying he discussed the international criticism with world leaders, including Vice President Joe Biden, the president of France and the premier of Canada. Netanyahu told them any country would act in self defense if it were targeted by thousands of rockets as Israel has been by Gaza militants.

Videos released by the military have shown a crowd of men attacking several naval commandos as they landed on a ship from a helicopter, beating the soldiers with clubs and other objects and hurling one soldier overboard.          Continue reading…