Washington, D.C. – Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13) released the following statement regarding today’s address to a joint session of Congress by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
|Dean of the U.S. House|
John Conyers, Jr.
“My decision not to attend the address by Prime Minister Netanyahu is based not on policy differences but rather on protocol. Speaker Boehner extended the invitation without consulting President Obama or bipartisan Congressional leadership. The speech was scheduled just in advance of a highly-contested election in Israel in which Prime Minister Netanyahu is competing and during highly-sensitive international negotiations regarding Iran. In short, the address was poorly-timed and inappropriately executed.
“I remain a strong supporter of the US-Israel relationship and a longtime advocate for a two-state settlement that finally allows Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace. Yet the timing and circumstances surrounding this address suggest that it has more to do with advancing a narrow political agenda than strengthening the US-Israel bilateral relationship.
“Given the Presidential prerogative in matters of foreign affairs, it is inappropriate and unprecedented for Congress to host a foreign leader for a speech without coordinating with the White House. Speaker Boehner not only failed to coordinate with the White House but failed to inform President Obama of the invitation.
‘The proximity of the speech to Israeli elections is also deeply troubling. While use of videos of House floor activity in political campaign advertisements is prohibited, Prime Minister Netanyahu used clips of a prior speech to Congress to great effect in paid advertisements during his 2013 re-election campaign. Hosting Prime Minister Netanyahu again for an address before a joint session of Congress just weeks before another election invites accusations of meddling in an overseas vote.
Finally, the use of the House Floor as a platform to argue against the comprehensive nuclear agreement currently being negotiated between Iran and a group of nations including the United States, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom and Germany could undermine the very national interests that US diplomats are working hard to advance.
“I would be delighted and honored to attend a speech by the Prime Minister of Israel, one of our nation’s most important allies, on the House floor. However, the speech must be appropriately timed and must respect the appropriate protocol.”