Former US Secretary of State James Baker said Sunday that House Speaker John Boehner's invitation to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to address Congress, which was extended without consulting the White House, is a breach of diplomatic protocol.
"I can't remember an instance in which it's been done," said Baker, who was secretary of state under President George H.W. Bush, on CBS's "Face the Nation."
"The speaker of the House has every right in the world to invite whoever he wants to speak to the House; it's a coequal branch of government," Baker explained. However, he added, "the executive branch of government really has the primary power and responsibility and authority to conduct the nation's foreign policy. It's not in the Congress, it's in the executive branch. So our foreign policy benefits when there's cooperation and so does the issue of U.S.-Israeli relations."
Baker estimated that the speech in Congress “has the potential to backfire” on Netanyahu in Israel's March 17 elections.
As an example, he pointed to former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who was defeated by Yitzhak Rabin in 1992 “primarily because Shamir was not seen as being able to manage the relationship with the United States properly.”
"Nothing is more important to the citizens of Israel than to know that their leadership is properly managing the relationship with their most important ally," Baker said.
In a separate interview on "Face the Nation," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, said Bohner and Netanyahu had been carrying out "political grandstanding.”
"We have a strong relationship, a strong alliance with Israel. For the speaker to decide to go at it alone and to invite Prime Minister Netanyahu without consulting with the White House was a mistake," Durbin said.
Durbin said that while Democrats are "troubled" by the invitation, they do not want to "show any weakness in terms of our commitment to Israel" by boycotting Netanyahu's speech. "I hope we can find a way to stabilize the situation quickly and take the politics out of it," he said.