The United States remains the most steadfast and most generous supporter of Israel. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that in the past six decades U.S. aid to Israel has totaled over $233 billion. Dollars continue to flow to Israel notwithstanding its devastating attack on Gaza last summer, with its resulting horrific Palestinian death toll. Our military aid today continues to support Israel, its illegal occupation of the West Bank, and its continuous siege of Gaza.
And yet, for Israel this just isn’t enough. In Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s zeal to bully the U.S. into maintaining this support and to silence even the most timid hints of justified criticism of Israeli policies and actions, he has lectured President Obama in front of the press following a meeting in the White House and publicly criticized Obama during the 2012 U.S. election. Israeli officials have followed suit, referring to U.S. advocacy of a 2014 ceasefire in Gaza as a “strategic terrorist attack” and to Secretary of State John Kerry’s warning that Israel was becoming internationally isolated as an “attempt to terrorize Israel.”
And now the latest slap in the face. To promote the Israeli agenda for a preemptive attack on Iran, Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner and Netanyahu have cooked up an invitation for Netanyahu to address the U.S. Congress. In completely bypassing the White House and disrespecting diplomatic protocol, Netanyahu has again shown an example of his view that “America is a thing you can move very easily.” And this comes at a time when there are serious negotiations in progress between the U.S. and Iran. Furthermore, upcoming Israeli elections most likely also play a part in the invitation to speak.
What is the appropriate response to such over-the-top and disrespectful behavior? Neither Obama nor Vice President Biden plan to attend the speech or meet with Netanyahu. Even prominent U.S. Jewish supporters of Israel are urging a postponement of the speech.
Over two dozen U.S. congressmembers have indicated that they will skip the speech. In doing so, they are sending a message to Netanyahu that there are consequences for outrageous actions, that they represent U.S. and not Israeli interests, and that there are times when these interests just are not the same.
This is one of those times, and for all these reasons we urge Representative Lois Capps, Senator Barbara Boxer, and Senator Dianne Feinstein to publicly call for the cancellation of the speech and to state that they will not attend should it go forward.
Rand Clark is a member of Jewish Voice for Peace-Santa Barbara.