By B. Cohen
Ron Dermer, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, has met with senior Jewish Democrats on Capitol Hill following reports that Vice President Joe Biden and other leading Democrats may skip Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress next month amid growing tension between the Israeli Prime Minister and the White House.
Dermer, Israel’s American-born envoy to the U.S. since 2013, met with Reps. Jerry Nadler, Nita Lowey and Steve Israel of New York; Jan Schakowsky of Illinois; Sander Levin of Michigan; and Ted Deutch and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, Politico reported.
The seven met for about an hour in Israel’s office in the Rayburn House Office Building. The congressman’s office confirmed that the meeting took place and that it was “spirited.”
“I organized the meeting with Ambassador Dermer, and I invited key Congressional Democratic supporters of Israel to attend,” Rep. Israel said. “There were a wide range of views that were discussed, but one thing we all agreed on emphatically is that Israel should never be used as a political football.”
Left-wing advocacy organization J Street has been meddling in the row, sending two mass emails promoting a letter from Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn) asking House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to reschedule the speech until after the Israeli elections.
“Momentum is on our side – and it’s growing,” J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami wrote in an email. “Make it clear that Netanyahu’s speech shouldn’t go forward as planned.”
Earlier, JNS.org reported that Biden, who also serves as president of the US Senate, had not yet committed to attending Netanyahu’s speech on March 3, while dozens of Congressional Democrats are also privately threatening to skip the address..
The White House has not told Democratic members of Congress to skip the address, but also isn’t encouraging them to go.
“We defer to Democratic members if they’d like to attend or not,” a White House aide said Tuesday.
Netanyahu was invited by Boehner to address a joint session of Congress about the threat of a nuclear Iran and radical Islam. The move set off controversy with the Obama administration, which said it was not consulted on the invitation and has argued that the address would hurt the West’s chances to forge a deal with Iran over its nuclear program. The speech was initially scheduled for Feb.11, but was moved to March 3 to accommodate Netanyahu’s address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) convention.