Treating Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as though he is an equal to President Obama in the US government by inviting the foreign leader to a joint secession of Congress, similar to what is seen during the President’s State of the Union Address, in early March, the move appears to be a long-planned effort to upstage the Executive Branch as the body that traditionally handles foreign policy manners. It also appears to be a means for Congress to demonstrate the President is not needed for Congress to act while undermining his credibility on the subjects of foreign policy and national security.
That said, Congress has the right and duty to provide oversight of the Executive Branch in all its functions as well as entities funded by American taxpayer dollars. Given the main reason Prime Minister Netanyahu is visiting Washington is to advise the US Congress on security matters in the Middle East, i.e. terrorism and Iran’s nuclear program, there needs to be real effort to engage Mr. Netanyahu, especially since Netanyahu is expected to advise Congress in a manner slanted toward Israel’s interests. Although Congressional hearings seem to do little aside from offering lawmakers a chance to get attention, including the Prime Minister in a few hearings could shed some light on all of the subjects he is coming to discuss.
In terms of Iran’s nuclear program, an actual debate with Mr. Netanyahu offers lawmakers a chance to engage the Israeli Prime Minister in a way that could help produce greater insights into the situation that might lead to better solutions instead of relying on politically correct statements designed to appeal to the Israeli public and American conservatives. At the same time, it would also give Congress a chance to probe Mr. Netanyahu on ways Israeli can cope with a globalizing, democratizing Muslim world that appears to be growing increasingly frustrated and anger with Israeli’s policies toward the Palestinians. In other words, Congress needs insights into how Israeli plans to live in peace with increasingly anti-Israel neighbors.
Although Netanyahu is a sitting-foreign leader and he long ago renounced his US citizenship, Israel is the largest recipient of US foreign aid to the tune of three billion dollars a year and more than billion dollars a year in military aid, along with other benefits. Considering Israel’s military uses American weapons and replenishes its artillery from aging US stockpiles, Congress has a right and duty to question Israeli on its treatment of the Palestinian People, with the 2014 Israeli-Palestinian War a particular concern. After all, Israeli’s relations with the United States puts America’s credibility and soft power in jeopardy when it indiscriminately carpet bombs innocent people in order to respond to a limited threat posed by Hamas, especially when Mr. Netanyahu feels compelled to inject himself into American politics as he complains of others doing it to Israel.
Moreover, the American People have a right to question the Israeli Prime Minister and a right to answers on how Israel is spending US taxpayer dollars. Congress needs to honor its responsibility to provide oversight and use Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to the United State in order to fully discuss the American-Israeli relationship.
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