Nearly 60 Lawmakers Boycott Netanyahu Speech

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As Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu enjoyed no less than 28 standing ovations during his 47-minute speech before the United States Congress on Tuesday morning, the resounding applause did not include the clapping hands of nearly sixty lawmakers who did not attend the controversial address.

Independent Senator Bernie Sanders (Vt.) joined 56 Democratic lawmakers in the boycott, which was seen by many as snub to the powerful Jewish-American lobby group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Republican House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) had invited the Israeli leader to speak against the ongoing Iranian nuclear talks without first consulting the White House. Ahead of the address, a number of dissenting lawmakers cited their support of President Barack Obama and opposition to Republican efforts to "politicize foreign policy" as reasons for not participating.

In a statement sent to the Boston Globe Monday evening, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren announced her boycott but reiterated her "strong support" of Israel.

"It’s unfortunate that Speaker Boehner’s actions on the eve of a national election in Israel have made Tuesday’s event more political and less helpful for addressing the critical issue of nuclear nonproliferation and the safety of our most important ally in the Middle East," Warren said.

Echoing that sentiment, Sanders told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell that while Iran must not be allowed to develop a nuclear bomb, "We should try to do everything we can to prevent a war with Iran."

Also not in attendance were President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. The president said he could not be present because of the speech's proximity to the Israeli election, while Biden had a scheduling conflict.

Condemning Netanyahu's efforts to "sabotage diplomacy," grassroots groups also rallied around the boycott and called on lawmakers ahead of time to skip the speech.

In a Washington Post op-ed published last month, Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace, said the dispute highlights waning political support for Israel's policies, particularly towards Palestinians.

"While coverage of the controversy over the speech has focused on violations of diplomatic protocol and Israeli officials attempting to play Democrats and Republicans against one another, the stakes are actually much higher," Vilkomerson wrote.

She continued:

Netanyahu is not only trying to dictate American policy toward Iran, but is also using the issue of Iran as a way to avoid hard questions about Israel’s policies toward Palestinians and its own citizens.  The current controversy around Netanyahu’s speech has revealed what we have known for a long time: that the increasingly oppressive and hawkish policies of the Israeli government do not reflect the values of American Jews, nor of Democrats.

In total, 48 members of the House of Representatives and eight Senators skipped the Israeli leader's speech. The updated list, according to reporting by The Hill, is below:

Rep. Karen Bass (Calif.)

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.)

Rep. Corrine Brown (Fla.) 

Rep. G.K. Butterfield (N.C.)

Rep. Lois Capps (Calif.)

Rep. Andre Carson (Ind.) 

Rep. Joaquin Castro (Texas) 

Rep. Katherine Clark (Mass.) 

Rep. Lacy Clay (Mo.)

Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.)

Rep. Steve Cohen (Tenn.)

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.)

Rep. John Conyers (Mich.)

Rep. Danny Davis (Ill.)

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.)

Rep. Peter DeFazio (Ore.) 

Rep. Diana DeGette (Colo.) 

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (Texas)

Rep. Donna Edwards (Md.) 

Rep. Keith Ellison (Minn.)

Rep. Chaka Fattah (Pa.) 

Rep. Marcia Fudge (Ohio) 

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.)

Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (Ill.)

Rep. Denny Heck (Wash.) 

Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (Texas) 

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (Texas)

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (Ohio) 

Rep. Rick Larsen (Wash.) 

Rep. Barbara Lee (Calif.)

Rep. John Lewis (Ga.)

Rep. Dave Loebsack (Iowa)

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (Calif.)

Rep. Betty McCollum (Minn.)

Rep. Jim McDermott (Wash.)

Reps. Jim McGovern (Mass.)

Rep. Jerry McNerney (Calif.)

Rep. Gregory Meeks (N.Y.) 

Rep. Gwen Moore (Wis.) 

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.) 

Rep. Beto O'Rourke (Texas) 

Rep. Chellie Pingree (Maine) 

Rep. David Price (N.C.)

Rep. Cedric Richmond (La.) 

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (Ill.)

Rep. Bennie Thompson (Miss.) 

Rep. Mike Thompson (Calif.) 

Rep. John Yarmuth (Ky.)

Sen. Al Franken (Minn.)

Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.)  

Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

Sen. Brian Schatz (Hawaii)

Sen. Martin Heinrich (N.M.)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.)

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.)

This story was originally published on Common Dreams.


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