The invitation from House Speaker John Boehner to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of Congress without consulting with the White House was an obvious attempt to embarrass President Obama and his negotiations with Iran to halt their nuclear program.
But it is not going exactly as planned.
Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, said Thursday that Mr. Netanyahu had called him the previous afternoon to explain why he had accepted an invitation to speak to Congress without first notifying the White House. The prime minister has also called Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, and Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the Senate’s No. 3 Democrat.
“It’s hurting you,” Mr. Reid said he told Mr. Netanyahu. “I said: ‘You have to understand this. I’m not telling you what to do or what not to do, but you have to understand the background here from my perspective.’ ”
“It would have been wrong for me to say, ‘Don’t come,’ ” said Mr. Reid, who is recovering at his home in Washington from a serious exercise accident he sustained Jan. 1. “I wouldn’t do that.”
Ms. Pelosi said late Wednesday that when she spoke with the prime minister, she had stressed that the speech “could send the wrong message in terms of giving diplomacy a chance.”
There have been partisan recriminations in Washington and Israel over the speech, with accusations that Speaker John A. Boehner, who extended the invitation, and Mr. Netanyahu were exploiting the situation for political gain. Mr. Netanyahu faces voters on March 17 in a contest in which national security and Iran could be significant factors. Democrats in Congress have said Mr. Boehner is trying to undermine Mr. Obama and weaken his ability to govern, a charge that Mr. Boehner disputes.
Not only is Bibi bombing out with the Democrats, the invitation is actually working for the president:
For months, the issue of imposing sanctions on Iran split many Democrats from the president, as they feared his posture was emboldening the government in Tehran to further develop its nuclear program. But Mr. Netanyahu’s planned speech, a provocation of the president that many Democrats found distasteful and undiplomatic, has helped shift the political dynamic.
I expect that in the next couple of days we’re going to hear that Mr. Netanyahu suddenly remembered that he has a dental appointment on the very day of the speech and has to cancel the trip.