February 12, 2015
New York, NY – Jewish Labor Committee President Stuart Appelbaum issued the following statement regarding the upcoming speech by Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington, DC:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s acceptance of Speaker of the House John Boehner’s invitation to speak before a joint session of Congress has created an unnecessary strain in U.S.-Israeli relations. The Jewish Labor Committee urges the Prime Minister to reconsider his acceptance of this invitation, and to seek another venue to express his concerns to the U.S. Congress about the negotiations taking place with Iran over its nuclear program.
As a democracy and an ally of the United States, Israel has enjoyed bipartisan support in America. This longstanding support has not been a Republican or a Democratic issue, but rather one based on shared values between our two countries. The invitation by a Republican leader to a foreign leader that bypassed the usual protocol by not informing the President of the United States , and the Prime Minister’s plan to address Congress in the near future, has put an unnecessary strain on this relationship, injecting the U.S.government into the upcoming Israeli elections.
The serious potential of the development of nuclear arms by Iran poses a real and significant danger not only to Israel but to the entire region. Prime Minister Netanyahu has expressed his view that this amounts to an existential threat to Israel many times and before numerous audiences. His analysis is well known to the U.S Congress and the American people. We believe that there is no need to repeat it at this time and under these circumstances in a way that we and many others believe may turn support for Israel into a partisan political issue.
A number of Democratic members of Congress who were preparing to vote for additional sanctions despite President Obama’s urging them to delay until after the negotiations had played out now will wait. President Obama has stated that he will not meet with the Prime Minister when he is in the U.S., citing the upcoming Israeli elections as the reason. Vice President Joe Biden has stated that he will be out of the country and therefore will, similarly, not attend Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address. Some prominent Democrats in Congress have stated that they are considering boycotting the speech as well. In other words, what has been bipartisan support for Israel threatens to become Republican support for Israel. While this may be good for one party in Congress, it is very damaging to the larger, bipartisan support that Israel has received since its establishment.
The Jewish Labor Committee therefore calls on Prime Minister Netanyahu to reconsider his decision to address a joint session of Congress under these circumstances.
*** The Jewish Labor Committee, an independent secular nonprofit organization, is the voice of the Jewish community in the labor movement and the voice of the labor movement in the Jewish community.