WASHINGTON — Sen. Al Franken became the sixth Jewish lawmaker to say he will not attend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress.
The Hill, a newspaper that covers Congress and that has been maintaining a count of lawmakers who say they will skip the speech Tuesday, on Monday added Franken (D-Minn.) to its list of Democrats. A Republican, Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), also said he will not attend.
“This has unfortunately become a partisan spectacle, both because of the impending Israeli election and because it was done without consulting the Administration,” Franken said in a statement. “I’d be uncomfortable being part of an event that I don’t believe should be happening. I’m confident that, once this episode is over, we can reaffirm our strong tradition of bipartisan support for Israel.”
Netanyahu and the congressional Republican leadership organized the speech without informing the White House or congressional Democrats.
The Israeli leader intends to speak out against US President Barack Obama’s support of nuclear talks between Iran and the major powers. The speech takes place exactly two weeks before the Israeli elections.
Also boycotting the speech among Jewish lawmakers are Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Reps. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.)
The absence of Franken, like that of Schakowsky, is also significant because both lawmakers have close ties with the pro-Israel community.
Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat senator from Massachusetts and possible presidential candidate for 2016, also announced Monday night that she would not attend Netanyahu’s speech.
“I strongly support Israel, and I remain deeply concerned about the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon, which I discussed in detail with Prime Minister Netanyahu when we met in Jerusalem last November,” the senator said in a statement to the Boston Globe. “It’s unfortunate that Speaker Boehner’s actions on the eve of a national election in Israel have made Tuesday’s event more political and less helpful for addressing the critical issue of nuclear nonproliferation and the safety of our most important ally in the Middle East.”