Some Democratic lawmakers may be boycotting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s congressional speech on Tuesday, but that just means there are more seats for the masses scrambling for a way in to the controversial address.
“The tickets are hotter than fresh latkes,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer, a Democrat from New York, told The New York Times.
The hyperbole, much like the hype surrounding the speech, at which Netanyahu is expected to pitch Congress on rebuffing a nuclear deal between the US and Iran currently in the works, did not end there.
“If Taylor Swift and Katy Perry did a joint concert at Madison Square Garden wearing white-and-gold and black-and-blue dresses, accompanied by dancing sharks and llamas, that’s the only way you’d have a tougher ticket,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, who invited Netanyahu without informing the White House, angering the Obama administration and several Democratic lawmakers.
Lee Zeldin, a representative from New York and the only Jewish Republican in Congress, said, “If I was solely responsible for filling the gallery, it would have been filled up in a New York minute.”
Jeff Forbes, a DC political consultant, explained the clamor for tickets as a sign of the atmosphere surrounding the address.
“It’s a major event at a major time in a critical area of the world that now has the added intrigue of DC politics.”
The speech comes just four weeks before a March 31 deadline for a political framework on the nuclear issue, with negotiators intending to pin down the final technical details by June 30.
It also comes two weeks before a March 17 general election in Israel where Netanyahu is hoping to be re-elected for a third consecutive term in office. Critics have accused him of seeking to sway voters with a show of determination against Obama.
This week the American Israel Public Affairs Committee hosts its annual conference in Washington, bringing even more Israel supporters to the area–and therefore more requests for tickets.
A record 16,000 people are attending the AIPAC conference, most of whom heard Netanyahu try out his pitch on Monday.
Although dozens of Democrat congressmen have decided not to attend Netanyahu’s speech in protest, their seats will not be empty. Rep. John Yarmuth has promised his seat to a constituent, as has Rep. Alan Lowenthal, the New York Times reported.
Not every congressman has confronted the finger-in-the-air cries of “I need a miracle,” however.
Sen. John Thune of South Dakota said that he has not been overwhelmed by requests, though his relatively small Jewish community is likely to blame for this.
“Of course, from a South Dakota standpoint, we don’t have a really large Jewish community,” he said.