Puppies and rainbows: How the bipartisan invitation to the leader of Israel threatens to divide the Democrats

All four Congressional leaders extended an invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to a Joint Meeting of Congress.

“I am very moved to have the privilege of representing Israel before both Houses of Congress and to present the truth about our just war against those who seek to destroy us to the representatives of the American people and the entire world,” Netanyahu said in accepting the invitation.

But the decision to invite Netanyahu is anything but puppies and rainbows on Capitol Hill.


One party is squarely behind Netanyahu. And one is not. In fact, Democrats who oppose bringing Netanyahu to Capitol Hill to deliver the address even accused House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., of trying to divide Democrats by extending the invitation.

But the war in the Middle East has already cleaved Democrats. It’s a fracture between progressives and supporters of Israel which could split the Democratic coalition – conceivably costing President Biden the election if liberals stay home.

“This is probably one of the most disturbing things I can think Congress can do is to have Netanyahu come,” said Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., one of the first Muslim women ever elected to Congress.

“It’s just unconscionable. His crimes are about to be prosecuted by the ICC (International Criminal Court). The international community is talking about him starving the population of Gaza,” continued Omar. “I don’t think any leader should allow this to happen.”

Rep. Ilhan Omar

UNITED STATES – JUNE 15: Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., arrives to the U.S. Capitol for the last votes of the week on Thursday, June 15, 2023.  ((Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images))

Yet House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., signed on to the invitation.

“The divide is overstated. The Republicans have repeatedly tried to make Israel a partisan, political issue and divide Democrats. And they have failed,” replied Jeffries when asked about consternation surrounding a Netanyahu address.

The Brooklyn Democrat then proceeded to explain how his caucus held together to lift the debt ceiling, avert multiple flirtations with a government shutdown, and aid Ukraine.

However, Jeffries did not cite the vote on the bill to aid Israel in April. The House adopted that package 366 to 58. But 37 Democrats voted nay.


However, unlike the majority party, Democrats have not tried to unseat two different Speakers this Congress.

Politics is about contrasts and perspectives. And perhaps that’s how Jeffries attempted to offer a pollyannish view of his party compared to the routine, internecine fisticuffs which paralyzed the majority.

“It’s nothing but puppies and rainbows on the House Democratic Caucus side,” said Jeffries, drawing laughter from the Capitol press corps.

But it’s far from it when it comes to tensions among Democrats about the Middle East and the speech to the Joint Meeting of Congress by Netanyahu. The easy thing for Democrats who disagree with Netanyahu or view him as a threat is to hold a press conference or two, sit out the speech and maybe stage a counterprotest of some type. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., says he wants Congress to “bring the temperature down.” But it’s hard to keep the thermometer in check if everything isn’t puppies and rainbows.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the opening ceremony marking Israel’s national Holocaust Remembrance Day at Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, in Jerusalem May 5, 2024. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun (Reuters/ Ronen Zvulun)

“Everybody who comes on that House floor should be respectful of the gathering that is happening, whether we are voting or whether someone is speaking to us. That’s the overwhelming feeling of Democratic leadership,” said Aguilar.

Netanyahu last spoke to Congress in the fall of 2015. And Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., says an appearance by Netanyahu fails to lower the temperature.

“I do think that (his speech) is unconstructive and his attendance is unconstructive of the U.S. goal of trying to establish a ceasefire,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “I don’t think that we should be rewarding individuals who are not as focused or committed to that aim (of a ceasefire) as the U.S. administration is.” 

“She’s wrong,” said Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., when asked about the remarks of Ocasio-Cortez. 

So much for puppies and rainbows.


Schneider is Jewish and one of the most-ardent supporters of Israel in Congress.

“Israel’s our most important ally in the Middle East. One of our best allies in the world. And it’s important for all Members of Congress – Democrats and Republicans – come to hear what the Prime Minister has to say. There’s a lot of things I disagree with. The specifics of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s politics. His policies. And I’ve been open about those. But I have no space between my commitment to support the US-Israel relationship,” said Schneider.

On Ocasio-Cortez’s comments, Schneider said that “too many people in Congress will close their minds on a whole number of issues.” 

Schneider cited the April roll call vote to send assistance to Israel.

“They were wrong for that vote. I believe they vote their conscience. I respect that. And I continue to try to persuade them as to why I think that was a bad decision,” said Schneider. “Hopefully the next time something like this comes up, I can win the argument.”


(Tom Williams/Getty Images)

There will be another time for that. Perhaps this fall when Congress tries to fund the government. Or maybe early next year when a new Congress is in place, President Biden is entering his second term or former President Trump is entering his second term. 

But one thing is for certain, it’s not all puppies and rainbows when it comes to the Middle East for Democrats. And the chasm is deep enough that this issue alone could block Democrats from picking up the House and re-electing President Biden.


Sure. Republicans suffer their divides, too. But an even deeper schism for Democrats lurks around the corner if Democrats fail to flip the House after the performance of Republicans over the past two years. That’s to say nothing of a possible repeat of former President Trump. If Democrats stumble at the polls this fall, they will tear at each other like limbs from a ragdoll.

As we wrote earlier, everything in politics is about contrasts and perspective. And if Republicans succeed this fall, one can look back at this period for the Democrats as one of “puppies and rainbows” compared to what’s ahead.

Original News Source Link – Fox News

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