House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) insisted he’s not “poking” the White House in the eye by inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress, while the administration complained it was a deviation of protocol.
Netanyahu is expected to address the joint session on Feb. 11 — the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution — about the danger posed by Iran and terrorism.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters onboard Air Force One today that they hadn’t heard about the invitation from the Israelis at all, and “this particular event seems to be a departure from that protocol.”
“The protocol would suggest that the leader of one country would contact the leader of another country when he’s traveling there,” Earnest said.
He added that the administration would “reserve judgment” on the visit until they’ve had a chance to confer with the Israelis.
Boehner confirmed outside of a caucus meeting on the Hill today that he “did not consult with the White House.”
“The Congress can make this decision on its own,” Boehner stressed. “I don’t believe I’m poking anyone in the eye. There is a serious threat that exists in the world and the president, last night, kind of papered over it. And the fact is, is that there needs to be a more serious conversation in America about how serious the threat is from radical Islamic jihadists and the threat posed by Iran.”
Over at the State Department, press secretary Jen Psaki said they have no opposition to Netanyahu’s visit.
“He’s spoken to a joint session many times in the past. That’s certainly not something we have opposed, nor do we oppose it, in general, in this case,” Psaki told reporters. “We don’t have information at this point on what he’ll be speaking about. Obviously, we have ongoing discussions — the secretary does — with Prime Minister Netanyahu about a range of issues, security, the ongoing tensions. Those will certainly continue.”
“…We have a different point of view, as it relates to the benefit of ongoing negotiations with Iran in our efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. And Prime Minister Netanyahu has spoken to that extensively. So that’s — but there are many leaders who have spoken to joint sessions in the past and there will be many in the future.”
Netanyahu met with a group of senators who visited Jerusalem over the weekend, including Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Angus King (I-Maine), and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.).
I met today in Jerusalem with a delegation of US Senators, Welcome to Israel! pic.twitter.com/p51BiambFY
— בנימין נתניהו (@netanyahu) January 19, 2015