Some Democrats, Biden may be no-shows for Netanyahu speech

Two Democratic congressmen have asked House Speaker John Boehner to postpone the speech until after Israel's elections.

By Frances Burns

WASHINGTON, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., says Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's upcoming speech to Congress may be "adverse" to Israeli interests.

Cohen, the first Jewish congressman from Tennessee, told Politico he is considering boycotting the speech. He and Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., have written Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, asking him to postpone the speech, now scheduled for March 3, until after Israel's elections. That might also put the speech after a critical deadline in nuclear talks with Iran.


J Street, the organization describing itself as the "political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans," is lobbying for a postponement. The group said it welcomes a Netanyahu speech to Congress.

"But the timing here -- weeks before Israeli elections, and as Congress is debating legislation (aggressively backed by Netanyahu) that could impact our sensitive negotiations with Iran -- couldn't be worse, and we need your help in making that clear," it said in an appeal to its members.

Netanyahu was invited to speak to a joint session by Republican congressional leaders, who did not consult the White House. During his trip to Washington, Netanyahu will not be meeting with President Barack Obama or Secretary of State John Kerry.


It is unclear whether Vice President Joe Biden will be sitting behind Netanyahu in his capacity as president of the Senate.

"The vice president's schedule for that week has not yet been set," said Josh Earnest, the presidential spokesman.

Cohen and several other representatives are also unsure if they will be in the audience. Cohen made it clear that if he is a no-show it will be as a protest.

"With his election being so soon, and with the negotiations we have going on with Iran, he's put himself in a political situation here that's probably adverse to the best interest of Israel," he told Politico.

Others are being coy.

"I don't even know what else is on my schedule," said Rep. John Yarmouth, D-Ky. "It wouldn't be an official boycott. I wouldn't announce that I wasn't going. But I don't really blame Netanyahu -- although I'm not a fan of Netanyahu -- but I don't blame him for coming."

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