Three Jewish House Democrats have sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) calling on him to end the "political firestorm" they claim he created when he invited Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to address a joint meeting of Congress, reports The Washington Post.
The three, Reps. Steve Israel (N.Y.), Ted Deutch (Fla.) and Nita Lowey (N.Y.), stressed they will be present at the speech despite their objection to it – and will not boycott it as several others are planning to do.
"While we have never wavered in our plan to attend the Joint Meeting of Congress with Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and we support placing additional pressure on Iran through new economic sanctions to be triggered should a political deal not be reached by the March 24th deadline, we are extremely disheartened by your recent attempt to politicize support for Israel," they write in the letter, which was sent Thursday and shared with The Washington Post.
In their letter, the House Democrats cite comments by Israeli diplomats casting the move to invite Netanyahu as "one-sided" and against "normal protocol." They ask Boehner to explain why he didn't give President Barack Obama more advance notice.
Boehner's office has posted a timeline of the invitation process online. His office noted that he officially issued the invitation after notifying Obama.
Obama's allies fear the trip could be used by Israel and by Republicans, who control Congress and issued the invitation, to undercut ongoing nuclear talks with Iran.
The White House has made clear that neither President Barack Obama nor Secretary of State John Kerry would meet Netanyahu while he is in Washington, explaining that American policy is not to meet foreign leaders on dates that are close to national elections in their countries.
Vice President Joe Biden, meanwhile, has announced that he will be travelling abroad during the joint session of Congress and will not be present when Netanyahu gives his speech.
Republicans have strongly backed Boehner, arguing that the leader of the House had the right to invite Netanyahu, who in turn had the right to accept or decline the invitation.
On Thursday, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.) introduced a resolution co-sponsored by most of his Republican colleagues to welcome Netanyahu to the United States.
“During this time of such great instability and danger in the Middle East, the United States should be unequivocal about our commitment to one of our closest and most important allies. I hope all my colleagues will join me in welcoming Prime Minister Netanyahu to Washington so we can continue to work together to advance our common security interests," Cornyn said in a statement quoted by The Washington Post.
The resolution could apply new pressure on wavering Democrats to say whether they will attend the speech.
Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with Democrats, said in a speech Monday at the Brookings Institution he would not attend the Netanyahu event and “may watch it on TV”, thus becoming the first senator to publicly declare he would not attend.
He was followed by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, who also said he would not attend the speech and accused Republican leaders in the House of Representatives of "unilaterally" arranging and politicizing Netanyahu's planned address.