The American political website Politico on Wednesday shed some light on the invitation extended to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to address the United States Congress.
According to the report, House Speaker John Boehner, who made the announcement about inviting Netanyahu, did not consult with the White House or the State Department over the invitation. Instead, Boehner’s and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s staff coordinated with Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States.
The idea has been under discussion in Republican leadership since before the 2014 midterm election, noted Politico.
On January 8, just two days after Boehner was re-elected speaker, he called Dermer — a native of Miami Beach, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and close adviser to Netanyahu,— to gauge the prime minister’s interest. The Israeli embassy gave a “quick affirmative response,” a Republican aide told Politico.
Boehner’s office then provided a list of dates for a potential address, and the embassy chose the week of February 9.
Boehner was plainly unapologetic about not consulting the White House or State Department.
“Congress can make this decision on its own,” he was quoted as having told reporters. “I don’t believe I’m poking anyone in the eye. There is a serious threat that exists in the world, and the president last night kind of papered over it. And the fact is that there needs to be a more serious conversation in America about how serious the threat is from radical Islamic jihadists, and the threat posed by Iran.”
Nevertheless, the snub from Congress received an ice cold reception from the White House on Wednesday, as White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the invitation to Netanyahu was “a departure from diplomatic protocol”.
"We haven't heard from the Israelis directly about the trip at all," he said. "The typical protocol would suggest that the leader of a country would contact the leader of another country when he is traveling there… So this particular event seems to be a departure from that protocol."
Secretary of State John Kerry later provided a softer reaction to the invitation, saying Netanyahu is welcome to give a speech at "any time" in the United States.
Kerry said, however, that he agreed it had been a "little unusual" to hear about the Israeli leader's address to the Congress next month from the office of Speaker John Boehner and not via the usual diplomatic protocols.