Congressman Steve Cohen to skip PM’s Congress speech

Congressman Steve Cohen to skip PM’s Congress speech

Democrat calls Netanyahu’s visit a ‘political tool wielded against our president’; Bennett to join Washington trip

Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Ten.) speaking on the floor of the US House of Representatives (screen capture: C-SPAN)
Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Ten.) speaking on the floor of the US House of Representatives (screen capture: C-SPAN)

Jewish Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Ten.) joined a growing group of American lawmakers publicly eschewing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned address to Congress next week about the perils of striking a bad deal with Iran over its controversial nuclear program.

Cohen affirmed his strong Jewish identity and support for Israel Tuesday, but accused Netanyahu and Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner of playing political games and engineering the speech as a tool to be wielded against the Obama administration.

“Providing a forum of such immense prestige and power to the leader of another country who is opposing our nation’s foreign policy is beyond the pale,” Cohen said in a statement, calling Netanyahu’s move “high theater” in the prime minister’s reelection campaign.

Other lawmakers have vowed to avoid the event as well.

At least eight members of the Congressional Black Caucus said they won’t attend to the March 3 speech, while Vice President Joe Biden announced that he will be “overseas” in a bid to avoid an uncomfortable situation that would see him seated behind Netanyahu in full view of the cameras.

“The speaker’s invitation to Prime Minister Netanyahu is political gamesmanship and it is a very dangerous game,” Cohen said, adding that Boehner was attempting to “curry favor” with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

“After deliberation, I have decided I cannot in good conscience attend the Prime Minister’s speech,” he noted.

While Cohen announced he wouldn’t attend Netanyahu’s speech, the prime minister’s key political ally, Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett, said he would accompany him to Washington.

In a statement posted to Facebook, Bennett said that a nuclear-armed Iran wouldn’t differentiate between left- and right-wing Israeli politicians, and called on all party leaders to “set their disagreement aside and join the prime minister in [his] mission against Iran.”

“I intend to do this and to be in the United States during the last political opportunity we have to stop a nuclear Iran,” Bennett wrote. It wasn’t clear whether he would be attending the speech to the joint session of Congress.

The head of the Anti-Defamation League, meanwhile, called for bipartisan support for Netanyahu’s speech in Congress. Abraham Foxman said that while the prime minister’s decision to speak in Washington before consulting the White House was “ill-advised,” it was now a fait accompli which “deserves support from both sides of the aisle.”

“This is a time for members [of Congress] to transcend the political controversy and come together to underscore the broad support for Israel’s security and understanding of its unique concerns about the threat of a nuclear Iran,” Foxman said in a statement.

Join us!
A message from the Editor of Times of Israel
David Horovitz

For as little as $6 a month, you can help support our independent journalism — and enjoy special benefits and status as a Times of Israel Community member!

The Times of Israel covers one of the most complicated, and contentious, parts of the world. Determined to keep readers fully informed and enable them to form and flesh out their own opinions, The Times of Israel has gradually established itself as the leading source of independent and fair-minded journalism on Israel, the region and the Jewish world.

We've achieved this by investing ever-greater resources in our journalism while keeping all of the content on our site free.

Unlike many other news sites, we have not put up a paywall. But we would like to invite readers who can afford to do so, and for whom The Times of Israel has become important, to help support our journalism by joining The Times of Israel Community. Join now and for as little as $6 a month you can both help ensure our ongoing investment in quality journalism, and enjoy special status and benefits as a Times of Israel Community member.

Join our community
read more: