Should House Democrats boycott Netanyahu’s speech?

Paul Hazelton

Paul Hazelton

On Feb. 15, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) pled guilty to a move straight out of House of Cards. The infraction? Boehner, without so much as a phone call to the White House, invited Netanyahu to speak in front of Congress in an apparent attempt to derail the upcoming Iranian P5+1 nuclear deal, which ideally will help tensions between Iran and the world powers.

The question is, should House Democrats boycott the speech, as some have planned?

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If they do, Democrats risk pushing Netanyahu’s meeting, as well as the Iranian nuclear deal, even further into the realm of partisan politics — something that almost no one wants.

Add the fact that Iran is one of Israel’s most feared enemies, who has stated Israel should be “wiped from the face of the earth,” and you might think Democrats are overreacting. But you’d be wrong.

Without a doubt, the possibility that Iran may acquire nuclear weapons as a result of this deal is daunting. They began their nuclear program in the 1950s and there’s still no bomb. In comparison, Pakistan was able to craft nuclear warheads in a fraction of that time with a fraction of the resources Iran possesses. In fact, Iran’s leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has repeatedly stated Iran has no interest in the development of a bomb, calling it a “sin.” Apparently, U.S. Intelligence believes him. In 2012, they stated that Iran was researching nuclear technology that could lead to a bomb, but was not pursuing the possibility. Even if they were, they’d have it by now. All they would need is the key component: enriched uranium, which has routinely been sold on the black market.

Besides, both Netanyahu and Boehner deliberately ignored White House protocol, effectively undermining the Obama Administration while simultaneously driving a wedge between the U.S. and Israel. Even more underhanded is the fact that Netanyahu’s speech is scheduled for March 3, just weeks before Israel is set to elect a new Prime Minister. Coincidence? I doubt it. More likely, Netanyahu is using the appearance to remind voters of what he is capable of. After all, if he can show up uninvited to advise on U.S. foreign policy — the Iranian nuclear deal no less — what can’t he do?

And even if you don’t believe that, what’s the point of the speech at all? Lets say that all House Democrats attended the speech. How likely is it that Netanyahu will drop an eye-opening bombshell that hasn’t already been discussed in lengthy congressional debates? I would argue little to none. The reality is, Netanyahu is a much needed roadblock as Republicans draft further sanctions on Iran. His visit has nothing to do with adding to the marketplace of ideas, but rather a mutually beneficial relationship with the Republican Party and the chance to weaken Iran’s economy, which already lays in shambles.

So, no. House Democrats should not attend Netanyahu’s speech, if for no other reason than the whole ordeal has been a foreign policy usurpation orchestrated with the sole purpose of undermining a measure which would better monitor Iran’s nuclear capabilities as well as ease the harsh sanctions imposed upon them.

Collegian Columnist Paul Hazelton can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @HazeltonPaul.