The Cable

Boehner to Visit Israel as Iran Nuclear Deadline Looms

House Speaker John Boehner showed up President Obama by inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress. He's set to do it again with a trip to Israel as the Iran nuclear deadline looms.

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House Speaker John Boehner showed up President Barack Obama earlier this month by inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to urge Congress against a nuclear deal with Iran. Now, with negotiations stalling over the timing of sanctions relief and centrifuge development, the GOP leader is setting the stage to do it again.

Boehner (R-Ohio) is expected lead a group of lawmakers to Israel at the end of March, a trip that could coincide with the March 31 deadline to get a framework agreement in place, according to reports. Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith confirmed the visit and said it was planned prior to Israel’s election this week that all but assured Netanyahu a fourth term as prime minister. He would not confirm the timing of the visit.

But the partisan nature of the trip is hard to ignore, as it further cements Republicans and Netanyahu as allies determined to sink an agreement between world powers and Tehran.

“The Speaker will visit Israel during the next district work period,” Smith told Foreign Policy. “He looks forward to visiting the country, discussing our shared priorities for peace and security in the region, and further strengthening the bond between the United States and Israel.”

Boehner’s visit is a win-win: If the talks fail, he and Netanyahu will have a forum to tell Israelis and Americans it was a bad idea from the start and to blast Obama for pursuing it. If a deal is reached, the speaker can make the case that it won’t last beyond the end of the president’s second term while arguing that it would allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons and threaten America’s most important ally in the Middle East.

National Security Council Bernadette Meehan told Foreign Policy the White House had no comment on the trip.

The GOP visit also serves as a reminder of the dismal state of U.S.-Israeli relations. After nixing the creation of a Palestinian state in an election-eve campaign ploy, Netanyahu did an about-face after his victory, saying Thursday that he didn’t intend to bury proposals for a two-state solution. But the White House wasn’t buying it: Obama administration officials said they were holding the Israeli prime minister to his campaign pledge. This follows Netanyahu’s congressional address, on which Obama was not consulted, which rallied Republicans and infuriated some Democrats.

It also deepens the chasm between Obama and Republicans. GOP efforts to sink a deal with Tehran have been relentless. Earlier this month, 47 lawmakers sent a letter to Iranian politicians telling them any agreement would not last past Obama. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) is now working on legislation that, if passed, would give Congress broad authority over any deal — whether to approve, change, or kill it.

Photo Credit: Tom Williams

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