John Boehner Defends His Trip To Israel

by Clarissa-Jan Lim

The uproar from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech before Congress earlier this month caused a startlingly public rift between Netanyahu and President Obama and further deepened the partisanship in Washington D.C. The most recent development revealed that John Boehner's Israeli trip isn't a "victory lap" for Netanyahu, the House Speaker said in an interview with CNN that indicated a defensiveness on the Republican side against accusations that they are exploiting the fractured relationship between Netanyahu and Obama to their benefit.

Speaking to Dana Bash on CNN's State of the Union on Sunday, Boehner said that his upcoming trip this week to Israel during a Congressional recess was planned well in advance of Netanyahu's speech to Congress members warning them of the dangers of a nuclear Iran.

My visit there was planned months ago, before the prime minister came here and before he was re-elected, so it's not quite what I would describe as a victory lap. There are serious issues and activities going on in the Middle East and I think it's critically important for members of Congress to hear from foreign leaders, other governments, other parts of their government, to get a real handle on the challenges that we face there.

Netanyahu's speech to Congress was arranged chiefly by Boehner and Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer, two weeks before elections in Israel, without first consulting the Obama administration — a huge breach in diplomatic protocol. An unidentified official in the White House told The New York Times that Dermer repeatedly prioritized Netanyahu's political fate over Israel's relationship with the U.S., further escalating the fallout between the Israeli leader and Obama, who, in the first place, have never seen eye-to-eye.

But Boehner placed the blame for the rift squarely on the White House. Painting Netanyahu as a victim of the administration's strong-arming, Boehner told Bash:

I think the animosity exhibited by our administration toward the prime minister of Israel is reprehensible. And I think that the pressure that they've put on him over the last four or five years have frankly pushed him to the point where he had to speak up. I don't blame him at all for speaking up.

Netanyahu, in a last-ditch attempt to save what looked like a failed re-election bid, had railed against the country's Arab citizens and vowed to never allow a Palestinian state to exist. His remarks made international headlines, and many saw it as a bid at winning votes from Israel's extreme right. Netanyahu has since backtracked on his remarks.

Boehner — Netanyahu's chief defender, it seems — gave excuses for the prime minister's remarks (that Obama had denounced).

Well, he doesn't have a partner. How do you have a two-state solution when you don't have a partner in that solution, when you don't have a partner for peace, when you've got a... When the other state is vowing to wipe you off the face of the earth?

The two-week Congressional recess also saw Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell visit Israel, meeting Netanyahu on Sunday.

Image: CNN/Screenshot (2)