WASHINGTON (AP) — Liberal Sen. Bernie Sanders said Monday he will skip Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to a joint meeting of Congress early next month, arguing that President Barack Obama should have been consulted before the invitation was extended.
The Vermont independent is the first senator to announce he won’t attend the speech. Democratic Reps. John Lewis of Georgia and Jim Clyburn of South Carolina are among a handful in their party who have said they will skip Netanyahu’s speech.
“The president of the United States heads up our foreign policy and the idea that the president wasn’t even consulted — that is wrong,” Sanders said. “I am not going. I may watch it on TV, but I’m not going.”
House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, extended the invitation — which comes two weeks before Israel’s elections — without discussing it beforehand with the White House.
Added Sanders in a statement: “I think it is very unfortunate that the Speaker of the House invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to address the Congress without consulting President Obama. Further, Netanyahu’s speech is slated to take place just two weeks before the Israeli elections. The U.S. should avoid even the implication of influencing a democratic election of a foreign country.”
Netanyahu is a sharp critic of administration negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, and Democrats fear he’ll use the opportunity to embarrass Obama and further his own re-election prospects.