US House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner has again accused the White House of holding "animosity" towards Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and of destroying Washington’s ties with Tel Aviv.
In an interview with CBS News on Sunday, Boehner said, “The animosity between the White House and the prime minister is no secret here in this town. They’ve certainly made it worse over the last five or six weeks.”
Boehner invited Netanyahu to deliver a speech to a joint session of Congress about the “threat” of a nuclear deal with Iran. The invitation was extended hours after President Barack Obama threatened to veto any sanctions legislation against Iran during his State of the Union address.
The Obama administration is both angry at Netanyahu’s accepting the Republican invitation to address Congress two weeks before the Israeli election without consulting the White House and excessive Israel lobby interference in American foreign policy.
On Sunday, Netanyahu arrived in Washington where he is scheduled to speak at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) lobbying group on Monday and Congress on Tuesday.
A large number of members of Congress have already announced to boycott the speech, but Boehner insisted in his interview that the address will be well-attended. “The demand for seats in the House, the demand for tickets, I've never seen anything like it.”
“What I do wonder is why the White House is threatened because the Congress wants to support Israel and wants to hear what a trusted ally wants to say,” Boehner said.
“It has been, frankly, remarkable to me, the extent to which, over the last five or six weeks, the White House has attacked the [Israeli] prime minister, attacked me, for wanting to hear from one of our closest allies."
In an interview last week, US National Security Advisor Susan Rice said Netanyahu's acceptance of Boehner’s invitation is “destructive” to the Israeli-American ties.
“I think it's destructive of the fabric of the relationship," she said in an interview with journalist Charlie Rose on PBS on February 24.
Boehner has also been criticized by Obama and members of Congress who say the timing of this invitation “appears to be an attempt to promote new sanctions legislation against Iran that could undermine critical negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran."
The Obama administration has already said there would be no meeting between Obama and Netanyahu, arguing it would not be appropriate to hold such a meeting as Israel is approaching its March 17 elections.
In addition, the White House has decided not to send its top leadership to the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC. President Obama, his Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry all are boycotting the annual AIPAC conference. Instead, the administration is sending US envoy to the UN Samantha Power and National Security Adviser Susan Rice to speak at the group.