Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned speech to U.S. Congress in March will not be attended by three prominent House democrats, who reportedly said they disapprove of House Speaker John Boehner's decision to invite the leader without consulting U.S. President Barack Obama.
Lewis, a leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, reportedly said that he has “no plans to attend the speech,” adding that Boehner’s unilateral invitation to Netanyahu was “an affront to the president and the state department.”
Butterfield and Blumenauer also accused Boehner of indulging in “political grandstanding” and attempting to “unnecessarily politicize” America’s relations with Israel, according to media reports.
“It is baffling that Speaker Boehner, who incessantly proclaims executive overreach by the president, would buck long standing diplomatic protocol to extend such an invitation,” Butterfield reportedly said.
Dianne Feinstein, another senior Democrat and former head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, on Thursday that she had still not decided whether to attend the “obviously political” speech, according to media reports. Several other Democrats also said they were weighing the decision to show up for the speech.
Boehner’s decision to invite Netanyahu has also angered the White House, which announced in January that the President would not meet Netanyahu during his Washington visit. Netanyahu, who shares a frosty relation with Obama, is also expected to speak in support of imposing renewed sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program. However, Obama has said he would veto any attempts to impose further sanctions on Iran.
Responding to a question over reports of several Democrats skipping the speech, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, on Wednesday, that the President believes “it is up to individual members of Congress to make their own decision about whether or not to attend.”
Netanyahu has also faced backlash by Israeli diplomats for his decision to accept Boehner’s invitation, according to media reports. On Thursday, the Israeli ambassador to Switzerland and a diplomat to India were recalled over comments critical of the Prime Minister.