The Slatest

Almost Half of Voters Say GOP Shouldn’t Have Invited Netanyahu to Congress

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sarah leave Tel Aviv on their way to Washington D.C., on March 1, 2015.  

Photo by Amos Ben Gershom/GPO via Getty Images

Nearly half of U.S. voters—48 percent—say Republican lawmakers shouldn’t have invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress without first getting the OK from President Barack Obama, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. Three in 10 voters, meanwhile, said the invitation seemed fine to them, and 22 percent said they had no idea. As could be expected, the divide is largely along party lines, as 66 percent of Democrats disapprove of the invite compared with 28 percent of Republicans.

Meanwhile there are increasing signs that Netanyahu’s speech on Tuesday, when he is expected to lobby for tougher sanctions on Iran, could mark a breaking point for Israel’s relationship with the United States. “While U.S. and Israeli officials insist that key areas of cooperation from counter-terrorism to intelligence to cyber security will remain unaffected, the deepening divide over the Iran talks is shaping up as the worst in decades,” notes Reuters.

Netanyahu left Israel on Sunday morning vowing to go ahead with his planned speech. “I’m going to Washington on a fateful, even historic, mission. I feel deep and sincere concern for the security of Israel’s citizens and for the fate of the state and of all our people,” Netanyahu said, according to the Guardian. “I will do everything in my power to ensure our future.” Some, however, are saying that Netanyahu “may have overplayed his hand,” as CNN puts it, and the whole thing could backfire; he has managed to turn potentially friendly Democrats against him.

Secretary of State John Kerry appeared to try to tone down any suggestion of tensions on Sunday. “The prime minister of Israel is welcome to speak in the United States, obviously,” Kerry told ABC. He did note it “was odd, if not unique, that we learned of it from the speaker of the House” but also warned “we don’t want to see this turned into some great political football.”