Following President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak about nuclear negotiations with Iran at an upcoming joint session of Congress, without first verifying the invitation with Obama.
Politico described this move as Boehner’s “most dramatic foreign policy confrontation” with Obama to date, due to the fact that Netanyahu is a “fierce opponent of the emerging U.S. nuclear agreement with the Islamic republic and has served as Obama’s foil, of sorts, as the negotiations have progressed.”
According to the New York Times, Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu “stunned” the White House, which called it a “breach of protocol,” and confirmed on Thursday that Obama would not meet with Netanyahu during his visit.
On Friday, in a discussion about Boehner’s subversion of Obama’s authority, Fox News correspondents Chris Wallace and Shepard Smith spoke out in criticism of both Boehner’s decision the extend an invitation, and Netanyahu’s decision to accept it.
Wallace said he completely agreed with former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk when he told the New York Times:
“Netanyahu is using the Republican Congress for a photo-op for his election campaign and the Republicans are using Bibi for their campaign against Obama. Unfortunately, the U.S. relationship will take the hit. It would be far wiser for us to stay out of their politics and for them to stay out of ours.”
“I think he’s 100 percent right,” Wallace said, explaining that he had been at the White House on Wednesday when Boehner announced that he had invited Netanyahu to speak to Congress, and that Netanyahu had accepted.
Wallace said one White House official was “flabbergasted,” and claimed the administration was given “no advanced warning,” and first found out about Netanyahu’s impending visit when Boehner announced it to the Press.
“To make you get a sense of really how, forgive me, wicked, this whole thing is, the Secretary of State John Kerry met with the Israeli Ambassador to the United States for two hours on Tuesday,” Wallace said. “Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador, according to the State Department, never mentioned the fact that Netanyahu was in negotiations and finally agreed to come to Washington, not to see the president, but to go to Capitol Hill, speak to a joint session of congress and criticize the president’s policy. I have to say I’m shocked.“
Smith pointed out that although both members of the Mossad and members of his own political party have warned Netanyahu that the upcoming trip to the U.S. is a bad idea, he “won’t back out.”
“The newspapers over there are going wild over this,” Smith said. “It just seems like they think we don’t pay any attention and we’re just a bunch of complete morons, the United States citizens, like we wouldn’t pick up on what’s happening here.”
Wallace noted that although Netanyahu is an “extremely savvy and successful politician,” Israel is just weeks away from a major election, and Israel’s relationship with the U.S. is a big political issue.
“Even when they’re fighting with each other the Israelis want to know that the U.S. has their back,” Wallace said. “For Netanyahu to do something that is going to be seen as such a deliberate and really egregious snub of President Obama, when Obama’s going to be in power for the next year and three-quarters would seem to me to be a very risky political strategy for Prime Minister Netanyahu.”