Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., listens on Capitol Hill in Washington. The speaker’s shift to the right “probably makes it more difficult in the Senate, but we shouldn’t worry about what the Senate is going to do,”Cole said. J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/Associated Press
BY U.S. REP. TOM COLE
In the global war on terror, the United States has no better ally and friend than the state of Israel. Surrounded by enemies intent on destroying it, Israel has more at stake in this war than any other nation in the world. Moreover, our two nations share a commitment to living peaceably, fighting terrorism, defending freedom and protecting democracy. As terrorist activities in the Middle East become more barbaric, we must continue to value, nurture and respect our relationship with Israel, still our most reliable ally in the region.
In the interest of showing support for the state of Israel, toward the end of last month House Speaker John Boehner extended an invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint bipartisan meeting of Congress. That invitation was accepted and is currently scheduled to take place before lawmakers of both chambers in early March.
Since hearing about Netanyahu’s upcoming address, President Barack Obama has behaved petulantly and rudely by openly expressing his opposition to the visit and insisting that he will not extend a similar invitation to meet with the prime minister at the White House.
As his reasoning for ignoring an important world leader, especially one representing our most dependable ally in the Middle East, the president said that such a meeting would interfere with upcoming elections for the prime minister. This explanation is disingenuous at best, as President Obama’s political team is actively participating in the opposition’s efforts to unseat Prime Minister Netanyahu in the upcoming March election. Following the president’s disappointing lead, several democratic lawmakers have promised not to attend the meeting. Vice President Joe Biden, who ironically met with Netanyahu’s opponent at the Munich Security Conference recently, also expressed that he will not be in attendance.
The real reason for the president’s temper tantrum is more likely his desperate desire to strike a deal with Iran over its efforts to secure a nuclear weapon. By all accounts, the president is so determined to reach an agreement with Iran that he is willing to jeopardize the safety and security of Israel, whom Iran has vowed to destroy. Since 1984, Iran has been designated as a state sponsor of terrorism by the U.S. State Department, and since 2006 the United States has imposed increasingly stringent sanctions on Iran for failure to stop its uranium enrichment program — a precursor to developing a nuclear weapon. While the Administration believes that a deal with Iran is possible, I have said before that it is better and safer for the American people and our friends around the globe to only accept an agreement that permanently eliminates Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons.
Our friends in Israel rightly share that concern and distrust of Iran, whether elections are coming up or not, and it remains an issue that must continually be monitored. A nuclear armed Iran is a threat to the safety of the entire west and a direct threat to the very existence of the state of Israel. Since the president is apparently unwilling to acknowledge this reality, House Speaker John Boehner has very appropriately extended an invitation to Prime Minister Netanyahu to present the facts himself. The prime minister recently responded to the Administration’s criticism of his coming visit, “We do have today a profound disagreement with the United States administration and [the world powers] over the offer that has been made to Iran.”
The Administration and others have blamed Republican leaders for meddling in negotiations by inviting the prime minister. Considering that Nancy Pelosi led a congressional delegation in 2007 to Syria, where she visited and attempted to lead peace talks with President Bashar al-Assad without the direction or approval of the Bush Administration, Democratic criticism of the Netanyahu invitation rings hollow.
Republicans in both chambers remain supportive and united in welcoming the prime minister of Israel in the coming weeks. Regardless of the time of year or the political circumstances, Israel is always a welcome friend.
U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, a Republican, represents Oklahoma's fourth congressional district.