House Speaker John Boehner didn’t consult the White House before inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak before a joint session of Congress—and the White House is not happy about it.

From the Times of Israel:

“We thought we’ve seen everything,” [Haaretz] quoted an unnamed senior US official as saying. “But Bibi managed to surprise even us.

“There are things you simply don’t do. He spat in our face publicly and that’s no way to behave. Netanyahu ought to remember that President Obama has a year and a half left to his presidency, and that there will be a price,” he said.

Officials in Washington said that the “chickenshit” epithet — with which an anonymous administration official branded Netanyahu several months ago — was mild compared to the language used in the White House when news of Netanyahu’s planned speech came in.

Normally, the President and Cabinet choose not to meet with world leaders on the eve of an election, so the fact that Netanyahu and Obama will not meet isn’t a particular scandal. The White House’s reaction is typical of this administration, and it doesn’t shock me; what’s shocking about all this is the fact that the White House allowed this type of insanely heated rhetoric to leak into the media.

And when I say “shocking,” I mean “typical and disgusting.”

Of course, Democrats claim that their ire has nothing to do with Netanyahu and everything to do with the future of Israel’s elections and the Iranian nuclear talks.

“If that’s the purpose of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit two weeks before his own election, right in the midst of our negotiations, I just don’t think it’s appropriate and helpful,” Pelosi told reporters Thursday at her weekly news conference. The speech, Pelosi suggested, could give Netanyahu a political boost in elections a few weeks later and inflame international talks aimed at stopping Iran’s nuclear program.

For Netanyahu, though, this is a way to strengthen his base going into a tough election, and ensure that his ties with the U.S. remain unsullied by a less-than-helpful Obama administration:

While that may not swing undecided voters, it is the sort of primetime appearance that can shore up the base and help Netanyahu, currently neck-and-neck with his center-left rivals in most polls, pip the opposition on the day.

It also allows the prime minister, a staunch advocate of a tougher line against Iran, to beat that drum before a receptive audience and parade his credentials as a global security hawk, a message that plays well domestically.

Add the opportunity to sweeten his already close ties with the Republican leadership before next year’s U.S. presidential election, and the bonus of an AIPAC gathering, and it looks like a very worthwhile trip.

Even the fact he will not meet Obama could play in his favor. While it is a snub, past meetings between the two have been frosty and made Netanyahu look awkward or defensive. With less than two years of Obama’s presidency remaining, Netanyahu is hardly banking on rapprochement.

It may sound cavalier, but at this point, at least for Netanyahu, this is a win-win. If he wins re-election, it’s not Obama and his officials that he needs on his side.

Netanyahu will address Congress in early March.


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