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Tags: Jewish | Democrats | lawmakers | Netanyahu | speech | John Boehner

Netanyahu's Speech Causing Dilemma For Jewish Dem Lawmakers

By    |   Monday, 02 March 2015 12:43 PM EST

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress on Tuesday is creating a dilemma among Jewish lawmakers, all of whom except for one are Democratic and divided over whether to attend the event.

Their division is like that of many others in the Jewish community, who are not sure about whether they agree with Netanyahu's address and how he was invited to make it, reports The New York Times.

Rep. Alan Lowenthal, a Jewish Democrat from California, told the Times that he just this past weekend decided to attend the address.

"I went out to play golf — I never play golf — with three of my Jewish buddies," Lowenthal told the Times. "One said, ‘You must go,’ one said, ‘You definitely should not go,’ and one said, ‘I’m in the middle.’ That literally reflects the American Jewish community."

But Rep. John Yarmuth, of Kentucky, said he expects Netanyahu to criticize President Barack Obama and his foreign policy before a cheering Republican audience, and he plans to skip the event. But another Jewish Democrat, Rep. Brad Sherman, of California, said he will attend.

Lowenthal warned that if Netanyahu "crosses the line" to criticize Obama, he will be speaking out after the address.

In all, about 30 Democrats, including four from the Senate and 26 from the House, said they are boycotting the speech. Most are African-Americans, who said they believe Netanyahu is disrespecting Obama by accepting House Speaker John Boehner's invitation to address Congress.

Six of the Democrats who will not attend are Jewish, representing about a fifth of Congress' Jewish members.

Boehner has said he hopes Netanyahu's address will undermine the Obama administration's ongoing negotiations with Iran, telling CBS' "Face the Nation" program Sunday that he wonders why the White House feels threatened that Congress wants to support Israel.

Freshman Rep. Lee Zeldin, the lone Jewish Republican, said that regardless of party or religion, people who value having the strongest relationship with Israel should welcome its leader.

"It is an opportunity to let not just the Israeli prime minister know, but the Israeli people know, that America is united in strengthening our relationship with Israel," the New York lawmaker said.

Many Democrats say that Netanyahu showed his willingness to align with Republicans by supporting Mitt Romney in the 2012 election, and say his speech Tuesday indicates he's going out of his way to alienate them.

Netanyahu has rejected Democrats' calls to drop the public speech and instead meet in closed session with the parties to talk about his misgivings with Obama's Iran talks.

"Israel is our ally. We support the state of Israel, but these kinds of actions, coming here to speak against the president?" said Illinois Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky, who will not attend the speech. "There are members who feel they have to choose between John Boehner and Bibi Netanyahu on one hand and President Barack Obama. That is an unfair place to be put in."

But there are some Jewish Democrats, like New York Rep. Steve Israel, who blames Boehner more than Netanyahu.

The Jewish community is also divided on the speech.

The pro-Israel lobby group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is pushing Jewish Democrats to attend the speech, but J Street has taken out ads asking that the address be postponed and the Anti-Defamation League's national director, Abraham Foxman, said the speech should be canceled.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress on Tuesday is creating a dilemma among Jewish lawmakers, all of whom except for one are Democratic and divided over whether to attend the event.
Jewish, Democrats, lawmakers, Netanyahu, speech, John Boehner
Monday, 02 March 2015 12:43 PM
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