Skip to main content

Congress blindsides Obama, inviting Netanyahu to speak

Inviting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress on Iran sanctions without the White House’s knowledge was seen as an unprecedented slap at President Barack Obama.
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) (L) arrives with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address reporters after Netanyahu's speech before Congress at the Capitol in Washington May 24, 2011. Israel must seek peace with the Palestinians that will entail "painful compromises" including the handover of biblical land dear to Jews, Netanyahu said on Tuesday. Addressing the U.S. Congress after a testy exchange last week with President Barack Obama about the contours of a future Palestine state, the r
Read in 

“If we were, for a moment, to ignore the Pollard incident, the American administration has never been so humiliated by Israel.” I was told this on the evening of Jan. 21 by a senior Israeli diplomat currently serving. He told me so after having learned through the media — much like President Barack Obama — that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had arranged an invitation for himself to address both houses of Congress on Feb. 11, just five weeks before the Israeli elections on March 17.

The release of the invitation, which was concocted, planned and delivered in secret after weeks of surreptitious contacts, without Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro even knowing about it, had a dramatic effect. It was unlike anything that ever happened before in the bilateral relationship between the White House and the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem. Soon after the invitation hit the news, an Israeli diplomatic source in Washington described its effect as “shock and awe.” Another senior official in the Israeli Foreign Ministry told me, “Today, more than ever, I would like to be on the line during the phone call between Ambassador Shapiro and Prime Minister Netanyahu and his staff.”

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.