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February 11, 2015 1:37 pm

Israel Advocates Warn US Legislators of Political Costs Over Boycott of Netanyahu’s Congress Speech

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avatar by Ben Cohen

Israel advocates are warning of political costs to those US legislators who boycott Netanyahu's speech. Photo: Twitter

Two of America’s most outspoken Israel advocacy organizations have issued a warning to legislators contemplating a boycott of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s forthcoming speech to Congress that doing so could damage them at the polls.

In a joint statement, the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI) and the Christians United for Israel Action Fund (CUFI) said, “As representatives of two proudly pro-Israel organizations, we urge members of Congress to do the right thing for the U.S. and Israel. And for those who would turn their backs on Israel and boycott its leader — they are no friends of Israel, and we pledge to do our best to educate voters about their undermining of Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship at this crucial hour.”

The statement comes at one of the most fragile periods in American-Israeli relations since President Barack Obama took office in 2008. Since yesterday morning, Obama has come under heavy criticism for an interview in which he stated that the January 9 Islamist terror attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris involved a “randomly” chosen target – thus implying that the Jewish nature of both the location and the victims was not relevant, despite loud claims from French leaders to the contrary.

Meanwhile, more than a dozen members of Congress have said they will follow Vice-President Joe Biden’s example in boycotting Netanyahu’s speech on the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Earlier today, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said that he too would not be attending the speech, but shifted the blame from Netanyahu onto the GOP leadership.

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“The unfortunate way that House leaders have unilaterally arranged this, and then heavily politicized it, has demolished the potential constructive value of this Joint meeting.” Leahy declared. “They have orchestrated a tawdry and high-handed stunt that has embarrassed not only Israel but the Congress itself.”

The reasoning behind Leahy’s decision was directly addressed by the ECI/CUFI statement. “Some members of Congress claim to be upset that the Speaker may have violated protocol or blindsided the Administration by inviting the Prime Minister. But then why take their anger out on the Prime Minister, and thereby on the State of Israel?” the statement argued.

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