Democrat opposition to Netanyahu, 2015 and 2019

Anyone who reads the news in 2019 can see that Republicans and Democrats can't agree on much anymore.  It was not long ago that there were plenty of issues that received bipartisan support.  In November of 2012, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand sponsored a Senate resolution to show support for Israel.  There were 35 Democrat cosponsors and 30 Republican cosponsors then; the resolution was supported unanimously.  Americans, particularly those who stand with Israel, can see that this is becoming a less common occasion.

Last week, tension between the Democratic Party and the Israeli government had gone so far downhill that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu had to reiterate his respect for Congress as a whole.  Before taking off on a trip to Ukraine on Sunday, Netanyahu explained, "We respect all parties in the United States, but we also respect ourselves.  Everyone who comes to boycott us and comes to undermine the legitimacy of the State of Israel, we don't allow them to enter."  The fact that Israel must clarify that they respect both American political parties shows the lack of amiability between Democrats and the elected representatives of Israel.

Support for Israel has continually crumbled into just another bipartisan debate between Republicans and Democrats.  This discord was exacerbated by the JCPOA, also known as the 2015 Iran deal, that the Obama administration brokered.  Still, the opposition to the Iran deal was bipartisan, featuring almost all Senate Republicans, plus Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and a handful of other Democrats.

What further dismantled the relationship between Israel and the Democratic Party was the Obama administration's refusal to meet with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he came to speak to Congress in March 2015.  Only months prior to the Senate holding a vote on the JCPOA, this speech was arguably the most important 43 minutes for American foreign policy in 2015.  Netanyahu came to town on an invitation from speaker of the House John Boehner.  Speaker Boehner found this an opportunity for Israel to connect with the American Legislature and understand the Iranian threat.  This was unsettling for the Democrats.


Netanyahu addresses Congress in 2015 (source).

As explained by Vox in this 2015 article, "this was a major breach ... of political protocol for Congressional Republicans to freelance their own foreign policy independent of the White House."  For Democrats, it was simply not considered appropriate for Netanyahu to accept an invitation to speak in the United States unless that invitation came from the White House.  It also wasn't enough to place the blame on the Republicans, who held the majority in both the House and the Senate.  Despite recognizing that Israelis saw the JCPOA as an existential threat of nuclear war, Democrats still found the lack of decorum to be a top priority.

Netanyahu was vilified for his presence so much that he was boycotted.  First, President Barack Obama refused to meet with Netanyahu while he was in Washington.  Then, prominent senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and others refused to attend Netanyahu's speech.  Fifty congressmen also chose not to lend a listening ear.  Every able Republican, for better or worse, attended.

The JCPOA that Obama's secretary of state, John Kerry, had finalized was unable to be blocked, so it went into effect.  It would eventually be revisited by President Donald Trump.  However, the Trump administration could not undo some of these terms to the pre-2015 situation.  Unfrozen assets in the deal couldn't be refrozen, since they were withdrawn from U.S. jurisdiction.

Fast-forward about four years.  Netanyahu, as all politicians do, swept any grief over the political protocol behind him and moved on.  He learned a valuable lesson: do not go to any foreign nation, especially the United States, behind its leader's back.  After all, had President Obama sent the invitation rather than John Boehner, the whole dilemma would have been avoided.

By 2019, the standards regarding how elected representatives should approach foreign nations have changed.  Not only are they different, but they've entirely flipped.  Last week, two Democrat congresswomen were blocked from entering the state of Israel: Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).  This was because of an Israeli law that took effect in 2017 that bans supporters of the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) movement from entering the country but allows the Ministry of Interior to make exceptions. The rationale for the law is simple.  If someone doesn't believe that a country has a right to exist to the point that he actively campaigns against that country's existence, then he shouldn't how up in that country's airport and expect to be welcomed.

Netanyahu and his Cabinet took serious heat for not making an immediate exception for these two congresswomen — so much so that eventually, an exception was granted to Rep. Tlaib.  This was done for "humanitarian" reasons because Tlaib's 90-year-old grandmother lives in the West Bank. Rep. Tlaib's office released a statement after she was granted permission to enter the country that explains her distaste for the special consideration she received. This statement said that she "decided to not travel to Palestine and Israel at this time," and that she "experienced the same racist treatment that many Palestinian-Americans endure when encountering the Israeli government."

Regardless of the ethics of this anti-BDS bill or Rep. Tlaib's family, the Democrats' standards for Israelis are not consistent. In 2015, Netanyahu was criticized by Democrats for traveling to the United States without President Obama's permission, even though he had the permission of the Speaker's office. It must be said: for Netanyahu to be able to take the House floor the way he did in 2015 was unprecedented, but at least his intention of preventing a nuclear Iran was something that everyone could agree on. But now in 2019, when Americans go to his country without an invitation at all, he is expected to greet them with a smile, and welcome them to the country they are actively trying to harm.

This issue can be broken down very simply. When there was an issue in 2015, they blamed Netanyahu. When he took their advice and did as they said in 2019, they still blamed Netanyahu. So, no matter what Netanyahu does, they will either blame Israel, or they will blame Israel.

This story is being reported as a bad look for Israel. However, history will look back at the hypocrisy that the BDS-led Democrat party demonstrated as the true mistreatment. Democrats need to establish a rule and stick to it. Perhaps this treatment of Israel, America's greatest ally, is just another reason for the split between Republicans and Democrats.

Anyone who reads the news in 2019 can see that Republicans and Democrats can't agree on much anymore.  It was not long ago that there were plenty of issues that received bipartisan support.  In November of 2012, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand sponsored a Senate resolution to show support for Israel.  There were 35 Democrat cosponsors and 30 Republican cosponsors then; the resolution was supported unanimously.  Americans, particularly those who stand with Israel, can see that this is becoming a less common occasion.

Last week, tension between the Democratic Party and the Israeli government had gone so far downhill that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu had to reiterate his respect for Congress as a whole.  Before taking off on a trip to Ukraine on Sunday, Netanyahu explained, "We respect all parties in the United States, but we also respect ourselves.  Everyone who comes to boycott us and comes to undermine the legitimacy of the State of Israel, we don't allow them to enter."  The fact that Israel must clarify that they respect both American political parties shows the lack of amiability between Democrats and the elected representatives of Israel.

Support for Israel has continually crumbled into just another bipartisan debate between Republicans and Democrats.  This discord was exacerbated by the JCPOA, also known as the 2015 Iran deal, that the Obama administration brokered.  Still, the opposition to the Iran deal was bipartisan, featuring almost all Senate Republicans, plus Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and a handful of other Democrats.

What further dismantled the relationship between Israel and the Democratic Party was the Obama administration's refusal to meet with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he came to speak to Congress in March 2015.  Only months prior to the Senate holding a vote on the JCPOA, this speech was arguably the most important 43 minutes for American foreign policy in 2015.  Netanyahu came to town on an invitation from speaker of the House John Boehner.  Speaker Boehner found this an opportunity for Israel to connect with the American Legislature and understand the Iranian threat.  This was unsettling for the Democrats.


Netanyahu addresses Congress in 2015 (source).

As explained by Vox in this 2015 article, "this was a major breach ... of political protocol for Congressional Republicans to freelance their own foreign policy independent of the White House."  For Democrats, it was simply not considered appropriate for Netanyahu to accept an invitation to speak in the United States unless that invitation came from the White House.  It also wasn't enough to place the blame on the Republicans, who held the majority in both the House and the Senate.  Despite recognizing that Israelis saw the JCPOA as an existential threat of nuclear war, Democrats still found the lack of decorum to be a top priority.

Netanyahu was vilified for his presence so much that he was boycotted.  First, President Barack Obama refused to meet with Netanyahu while he was in Washington.  Then, prominent senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and others refused to attend Netanyahu's speech.  Fifty congressmen also chose not to lend a listening ear.  Every able Republican, for better or worse, attended.

The JCPOA that Obama's secretary of state, John Kerry, had finalized was unable to be blocked, so it went into effect.  It would eventually be revisited by President Donald Trump.  However, the Trump administration could not undo some of these terms to the pre-2015 situation.  Unfrozen assets in the deal couldn't be refrozen, since they were withdrawn from U.S. jurisdiction.

Fast-forward about four years.  Netanyahu, as all politicians do, swept any grief over the political protocol behind him and moved on.  He learned a valuable lesson: do not go to any foreign nation, especially the United States, behind its leader's back.  After all, had President Obama sent the invitation rather than John Boehner, the whole dilemma would have been avoided.

By 2019, the standards regarding how elected representatives should approach foreign nations have changed.  Not only are they different, but they've entirely flipped.  Last week, two Democrat congresswomen were blocked from entering the state of Israel: Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).  This was because of an Israeli law that took effect in 2017 that bans supporters of the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) movement from entering the country but allows the Ministry of Interior to make exceptions. The rationale for the law is simple.  If someone doesn't believe that a country has a right to exist to the point that he actively campaigns against that country's existence, then he shouldn't how up in that country's airport and expect to be welcomed.

Netanyahu and his Cabinet took serious heat for not making an immediate exception for these two congresswomen — so much so that eventually, an exception was granted to Rep. Tlaib.  This was done for "humanitarian" reasons because Tlaib's 90-year-old grandmother lives in the West Bank. Rep. Tlaib's office released a statement after she was granted permission to enter the country that explains her distaste for the special consideration she received. This statement said that she "decided to not travel to Palestine and Israel at this time," and that she "experienced the same racist treatment that many Palestinian-Americans endure when encountering the Israeli government."

Regardless of the ethics of this anti-BDS bill or Rep. Tlaib's family, the Democrats' standards for Israelis are not consistent. In 2015, Netanyahu was criticized by Democrats for traveling to the United States without President Obama's permission, even though he had the permission of the Speaker's office. It must be said: for Netanyahu to be able to take the House floor the way he did in 2015 was unprecedented, but at least his intention of preventing a nuclear Iran was something that everyone could agree on. But now in 2019, when Americans go to his country without an invitation at all, he is expected to greet them with a smile, and welcome them to the country they are actively trying to harm.

This issue can be broken down very simply. When there was an issue in 2015, they blamed Netanyahu. When he took their advice and did as they said in 2019, they still blamed Netanyahu. So, no matter what Netanyahu does, they will either blame Israel, or they will blame Israel.

This story is being reported as a bad look for Israel. However, history will look back at the hypocrisy that the BDS-led Democrat party demonstrated as the true mistreatment. Democrats need to establish a rule and stick to it. Perhaps this treatment of Israel, America's greatest ally, is just another reason for the split between Republicans and Democrats.