Two senior Democrats in the United States Senate have invited Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to a closed-door meeting with Democratic senators during his upcoming visit to Washington, Reuters reported on Monday.
According to the report, Senators Richard Durbin and Dianne Feinstein extended the invitation "to maintain Israel's dialog with both political parties in Congress," according to a letter they sent to the Israeli leader.
The invitation by the Democrats comes after weeks of quarreling between Democrats and Republicans over Netanyahu’s Congress speech.
The invitation to Netanyahu was extended by House Speaker John Boehner, who did so without consulting the White House or the Democrats, and later explained he felt it was important to do an end-run around White House "interference".
Democrats were outraged, with Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy saying he would not attend the speech and accusing Republican leaders in the House of Representatives of "unilaterally" arranging and politicizing Netanyahu's planned address.
The speech has also stoked tensions between Washington and Jerusalem, as the White House made clear that neither President Barack Obama nor Secretary of State John Kerry would meet with Netanyahu while he is in Washington, citing the proximity of his visit to the elections in Israel.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki has indicated that Kerry will “probably be out of town” during Netanyahu’s speech, and Vice President Joe Biden has also announced that he will be travelling abroad and would not be attending the speech.
There were also some reports that Washington was punishing Israel for Netanyahu’s speech by not sharing with it some details of the nuclear talks with Iran and by considering snubbing the annual AIPAC conference. These reports have been denied.
"This unprecedented move threatens to undermine the important bipartisan approach towards Israel – which as long-standing supporters of Israel troubles us deeply," Durbin and Feinstein wrote of Netanyahu’s speech, according to Reuters.
"It sacrifices deep and well-established cooperation on Israel for short-term partisan points – something that should never be done with Israeli security and which we fear could have lasting repercussions," they said.
Although some Democrats have said they would not attend Netanyahu's speech to the joint meeting of the House of Representatives and Senate, the session proposed by Durbin and Feinstein would be in addition to the address. It is not intended as an alternative, a Durbin aide said, according to the report.
The two senators have not indicated publicly whether they planned to be at the Israeli leader's address, their spokesmen said.
Durbin is the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate. Feinstein, who has been in the Senate since 1992, is the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee and a senior member of the Appropriations and Judiciary committees.
The letter was sent on Monday evening. The Israeli Embassy did not have an immediate response to the invitation, noted Reuters.