Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, has urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cancel his upcoming speech to Congress on March 3, following the uproar and the tensions the planned address has caused between Israel and the United States.
Netanyahu is set to warn against a deal with Iran that would enable it to become a nuclear threshold state. The timing, arrangements and likely content of the speech have infuriated the Obama administration.
Foxman, a prominent Jewish-American leader, said that while Netanyahu’s warnings about Iran were serious, the political furor over the speech “turned the whole thing into a circus.”
“Now is a time to recalibrate, restart and find a new platform and new timing to take away the distractions,” Foxman told the Jewish Daily Forward on Friday.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, meanwhile, downplayed concerns that Netanyahu’s speech would cause further tension in US-Israel ties.
“Israel cannot be a partisan issue,” Hoenlein said. “I do not think the prime minister’s speech will do what people think. He did not come to attack the president or take sides.”
Netanyahu has come under increasing pressure to scrap the speech, both at home and in the US.
In the latest blow, Vice President Joe Biden’s office announced Friday that he would not attend, claiming he was scheduled to travel abroad at that time. President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry said shortly after the speech was announced on January 20 that they would not meet with Netanyahu during his visit, citing the proximity to Israeli elections set for March 17.
A Channel 10 news report Friday indicated that some 40 Democratic legislators were currently expected to stay away from the address. By Saturday, it said 60 legislators might do so.
In Israel, opposition leader and head of the Zionist Camp (the Labor-Hatnua joint list) Isaac Herzog also called on Netanyahu to cancel the address, saying the antagonism it was causing in Washington was too great.
Netanyahu remains determined to go ahead with the address, to highlight the dangers of a deal that would leave Iran as a nuclear threshold state, but is making an effort “to soften” the Obama administration’s anger, and that of many Democrats, over the March 3 speech by stressing he believed the invitation to address Congress by House Speaker John Boehner was truly bipartisan, the TV report said.