Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel has lent his support to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's March 3 speech to Congress, which has become an issue of contention between Democrats and Republicans as well as between Israel and the United States.
According to the Reuters news agency, Wiesel is urging President Barack Obama to attend the speech and hear what Netanyahu has to say about the threat from Iran’s nuclear program.
Well-known Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Reuters reported, said on Thursday he is placing full-page advertisements in The New York Times and The Washington Post, featuring Wiesel's endorsement of Netanyahu's speech.
The advertisement quotes Wiesel as saying he plans to attend Netanyahu's address "on the catastrophic danger of a nuclear Iran." He then asks Obama and others in the ad, "Will you join me in hearing the case for keeping weapons from those who preach death to Israel and America?"
Speaking to Reuters by phone, Boteach said, "There's no personality more respected in the global Jewish community and few in the wider world than Elie Wiesel. He is a living prince of the Jewish people."
"He is the face of the murdered 6 million (Jews killed in the Holocaust). So I think that his view on the prime minister's speech sounding the alarm as to the Iranian nuclear program carries a unique authority that transcends some of the political circus that has affected the speech," he added.
House of Representatives Speaker Republican John Boehner invited Netanyahu to make the speech without the knowledge of either the White House's or Democratic leaders in Congress, leading to tensions between Democrats and Republicans.
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.
Boehner defended the action, saying Congress has every right, as a separate branch of government, to operate without the administration's input.
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.
Meanwhile, some Democrats have been considering not attending the speech, though House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said last week that there will be no “organized” boycott of Netanyahu’s speech among Democrats. She suggested, however, some lawmakers might “just be too busy” to attend.
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.
Wiesel is not the only one to have expressed support for Netanyahu’s speech. He was preceded by groups such as the Zionist Organization of America and Americans for a Safe Israel.
Not everyone has been on board with the speech, however. This week, J Street, a far leftist NGO, started a new campaign calling on American Jews to sign a petition against Netanyahu's Washington visit. The campaign is entitled "I am a Jew, and Bibi does NOT speak for me".
(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)