Behind Israeli Prime Minister’s visit to Washington

(VOVworld) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a speech to the US Congress criticizing the emerging nuclear agreement between the US and Iran. Although his trip was not welcomed by the White House, it’s a step in his plan prior to the Israeli election on March 17

Behind Israeli Prime Minister’s visit to Washington  - ảnh 1
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference in Washington on Mar 2, 2015 (photo: reuters/ Jonathan Ernst)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in the US on March 1st at the invitation of US House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, not an official diplomatic invitation from the White House. Before leaving Israel, Mr. Netanyahu said he had a fateful mission to urge the US Congress to increase sanctions on Iran. His visit comes 4 weeks before the March 31 deadline for a framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.

The White House gives no green light

US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry will not meet the Israeli Prime Minister. The White House ruled out any meeting with President Obama and insisted on the long-standing practice and principle that US presidents should not meet foreign leaders during their re-election campaigns.

Obama previously said Netanyahu’s visit at the invitation of the House Speaker and bypassing the White House violates normal protocol. Vice President Joe Biden will also be absent from the meeting, although customarily the Vice President attends a foreign leader’s speech to the Congress. 

National Security Advisor Susan Rice criticized Speaker Boehner for inviting Netayahu just 2 weeks before Israel’s general election. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said US-Israel relations should not be reduced to a relationship between Israel’s Likud party and the US’s Republican party.

A political move

Netanyahu was prepared for a reaction from the White House, but for him gaining public support in the Israeli election is more important. Facing the Zionist Union Party candidate, Isaac Herzog, Netanyahu’s political campaign has diverted public attention from economic and domestic issues to external issues. Iran’s nuclear program has long been felt to be a direct threat to Israeli security. Netanyahu has scorned negotiations with Iran, saying the US has made concessions while Iran continues with its nuclear weapons ambition which threatens the security of Israel and the entire Middle East.

One day prior to his speech before Congress, Netanyahu met with the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, AIPAC, to express his concern that Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran will threaten Israel’s existence.

A second reason for Netanyahu’s speech is that some Israeli people want to see their leader present their views to the US Congress. A successful speech on March 3 could mean success in the coming election.

Israel has been the US’s most loyal ally in the Middle East. Despite Netanyahu’s announcement at the AIPAC meeting on March 2 that the US-Israel alliance is stronger than ever and the White House’s denial of a rumor that it will cut aid to Israel, the distance between the two allies could widen following Netanyahu’s visit.