PHILADELPHIA — As the controversy builds over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned address to a joint session of Congress this spring, Nancy Pelosi weighed in again Wednesday with a more forceful rebuke of what she and the White House have called a breach in protocol.
“It is not appropriate,” the House minority leader said at the end of a 45 minute news conference with other top Democrats to kick off the House Democratic retreat. The Californian said she had spoken with Netanyahu earlier in the day, and she made her feelings clear that his visit, scheduled for just two weeks before the Israeli elections, could jeopardize fragile nuclear negotiations with Iran. She said it “could send the wrong message.” Pelosi also noted that Speaker John A. Boehner had invited Netanyahu without consulting congressional Democrats or the White House. And she said the only foreign leader who had spoken more to Congress than Netanyahu was Winston Churchill. “It’s a serious, big honor that we extend, that shouldn’t be extended two weeks before a country [holds elections] without collaboration with leaders of Congress and collaboration with the White House,” she said.
“But the bigger issue is what that would do to the direction we are heading right now,” Pelosi said.
The United States and other countries are in the midst of ongoing negotiations with Iran over the Islamic republic’s disputed nuclear program. Under an interim November 2013 agreement, Iran agreed to abandon much of its nuclear program in exchange for a loosening of sanctions.
Already, three House Democrats are circulating a letter calling on Boehner to postpone the Netanyahu speech.
Pelosi was asked if she thought Netanyahu’s invitation should be rescinded, but she wouldn’t quite go there. Instead, she reiterated her belief that the invitation wasn’t appropriate — a position she less directly stated last week — and she made clear that this was a delicate time in Israeli nuclear negotiations. “We want to give diplomacy a chance,” she said.
Still, Pelosi spoke of a strong bond between the United States and Israel, even calling the existence of the country “the greatest political achievement of the 20th century.”
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