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February 11, 2015 2:19 pm

Democrats Deploy BDS Campaign Against Netanyahu

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avatar by Jonathan Greenberg

The BDS campaign. Photo: Mohamed Ouda via Wikimedia Commons.

In April of 2007, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) visited Syria and met with its hereditary dictator, Bashar al-Assad. Despite criticism from the sitting president of the United States and despite applying countervailing pressure to existing U.S. policy, Pelosi had tea and chit-chat with a guy who would go on to murder hundreds of thousands (and counting) of his own people.

Today, she’s talking about her party boycotting a speech to Congress given by the elected leader of an allied sister democracy. Because a president’s agenda and command over U.S. foreign policy must be respected. When that president is a Democrat.

Leader Pelosi isn’t the only one pretending to fume about the planned speech to a joint session of Congress by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It was reported this week that Vice President Biden’s office won’t say whether or not he’ll preside over the joint session and a number of other Democrats are considering leaving “some empty seats.” Ron Brownstein, writing in National Journal, accused the Israeli prime minister of interfering in U.S. politics and of overtly aligning himself with “the American right.” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) called on the Speaker to cancel the address. And New York Times columnist Tom Friedman calls it “churlish, reckless and, for the future of Israeli-American relations, quite dangerous.”

White House staffers are even on the record threatening retribution against the Jewish state, but I’m not sure I believe it. Everyone knows that if they were serious, they’d have created a hashtag.

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The only people injecting partisanship into this situation are Democrats and their echo chamber (with a pile-on from the occasional pro-Iranian mouthpiece). Whatever you may think of the wisdom of Netanyahu’s planned address or the invitation extended to him by Speaker Boehner, it was the Speaker who invited the prime minister. Perhaps Democrats directing their anger at Netanyahu are blaming the wrong guy.

Add to that the revelation that Speaker Boehner’s office followed a protocol from the prime minister’s 2011 address to a joint session by merely notifying the White House – a heads-up the White House didn’t object to back then when Obama still faced reelection.  The prime minister only accepted the Speaker’s invitation after the White House was notified. Does that settle concerns about diplomatic protocol? Not to my satisfaction. But neither is it fume-worthy.

Congressional Democrats, on the other hand, are being overtly partisan. In delaying a vote on new Iran sanctions, they have rallied around a policy many of them believe to be wrong because it emanates from a president of their party. Stories about Netanyahu’s “meddling” in U.S. politics are particularly noxious because they play into the very worst stereotypes about Jews and the Jewish state; and I don’t recall a similar plaintive cry from liberals when then-Defense Minister Ehud Barak and then-President Shimon Peres praised Obama’s commitment to Israel…in summer of 2012. Come to think of it, I don’t recall any complaining from the right, either. Weird.

Most egregious is the threat to boycott the speech of an Israeli leader (are we in Brussels?). Imagine that for a moment. Imagine the press releases from anti-Israel and anti-Jewish groups. Imagine the headlines all over the Arab and Muslim worlds. Imagine the green light given by wide-angle shots of empty seats to the International Criminal Court and the egregiously misnamed U.N. Human Rights Commission (which is about to publish a biased report on Israel’s defensive actions last summer in Gaza). Those empty seats will be a declaration of open season on our only real ally in the Middle East. Well done, congressional Democrats.

The reaction from the left to those imaginings will be, of course, that the Prime Minister shouldn’t be “embarrassing” the president – a case made by precisely none of them when Leader Pelosi flew to Syria in 2007. When your sole calculus for an action is party affiliation, guess what? You’re the one being partisan.

So if Democrats and their sympathizers could stop with the pious indignation about respecting the singularity of the executive in crafting foreign policy, we’d all appreciate it. And if they could stop scoring cheap points on the backs of the U.S.-Israel relationship and a democratically elected Israeli leader they don’t like, everyone would be better off.

Greenberg is a Middle East analyst, public policy expert, and former staffer at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. He is a senior fellow with the Salomon Center. This article was originally published by The Hill.

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