On Tuesday night, President Obama used the State of the Union address to ask Congress to delay further sanctions against Iran. His concern is that, by imposing a new round of sanctions, Congress will complicate ongoing negotiations to end Iran’s nuclear program.
John Boehner disagrees with the no-new-sanctions approach. So does Benjamin Netanyahu. So, on Wednesday morning, the Republican Speaker of the House invited Netanyahu to address Congress on Feb. 11. It will be the Israeli prime minister’s third speech to the American legislature, and his first since 2011.
“I am asking the Prime Minister to address Congress on the grave threats radical Islam and Iran pose to our security and way of life,” Boehner said in a press release. “Americans and Israelis have always stood together in shared cause and common ideals, and now we must rise to the moment again.”
The invitation is sure to raise hackles in the White House, which has already called it a breach of protocol. The relationship between Netanyahu and Obama is not exactly warm. Plus, Members of Congress don’t often invite foreign leaders to the United States behind the president’s back.
Another Netanyahu speech is also likely to raise questions—by now familiar—about whether Bibi is too involved in the politics of other countries. During the 2012 election, some commentators accused the obviously pro-Romney Netanyahu of meddling in American affairs. The prime minister has also been criticized for more recent comments to French Jews, encouraging them to immigrate to Israel. The line between meddling and diplomacy is always fine, though. And there’s no question that American policies, especially regarding Iran, could have major effects on Israel’s future.
Update: Netanyahu has accepted the invitation.
Michael Schulson is a freelance writer in Durham, North Carolina. He writes about religion, science, and culture.