Vice President Joe Biden has found a “previously scheduled” foreign trip that will prevent him from presiding over a controversial congressional address next month by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Good for him.
In another interesting development, Netanyahu’s administration is now playing victim, publicly suggesting that it had been duped into the speech by House Speaker John Boehner.
“It appears that the speaker of Congress made a move, in which we trusted, but which it ultimately became clear was a one-sided move and not a move by both sides,” Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi told an Israeli radio station. As a result, he said, Israel is now making “a huge effort to make clear to them that this is not a move that flouts the president of the United States.”
I’m not buying it. The man who secretly negotiated the speech with Boehner, Israeli ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer, is a former GOP campaign operative with a sophisticated knowledge of American politics. He knew exactly what he was doing. Dermer also had a long meeting with White House officials just before announcement of the speech, yet oddly chose not to reveal a word about it. In fact, Dermer’s role in the speech is fueling calls in the Israeli press for his firing.
Netanyahu’s hope has been to use the speech to help his chances in an Israeli election two weeks later, and to push the United States against its will into a military assault on Iran’s nuclear-weapons program. President Obama has not taken that option off the table, but he has concluded that it is in America’s best interest to try every other option first, including on-going negotiation with Iran.
Netanyahu and Boehner, each for their own self-interest, arranged the address in an effort to undermine the president on a crucial foreign policy issue, breaking a number of diplomatic, political and constitutional norms in the process. They got too cute and too cynical, and are paying the price.