Democrats are playing a dangerous game with Israel by snubbing the prime minister of America's staunchest Middle East ally. Four Democratic senators, as well as almost two-dozen House members, have already announced that they will not attend Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to a joint session of Congress on March 3. By doing so, they may curry favor with the White House, but they risk sending a dangerous message to Israel's enemies -- especially Iran.
As recently as November, Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned that the only "cure" for Israel is to "be annihilated." Is it any wonder that Netanyahu considers a nuclear-armed Iran an existential threat to Israel's very existence?
Israel is the only nation in the world that, from its inception, has been constantly threatened with extinction. Its Arab neighbors have fought repeated wars to destroy the Jewish state. Terrorist organizations have periodically slaughtered Israelis -- aiming their attacks at innocent civilians, even school children. Last year alone, Hamas fired more than 4,000 rockets into Israel from Gaza. Only Israel's superior Iron Dome defense system prevented the rockets from killing hundreds if not thousands of Israelis who were Hamas' intended victims.
So why on earth have Democrats chosen to pick this fight? And make no mistake: It is a handful of Democrats who have turned Netanyahu's speech into a partisan issue.
The White House has from the beginning treated the Netanyahu speech as if it were a sneak attack by an adversary. But Netanyahu seems to have a better understanding of the American concept of the constitutional separation of powers than the president does.
The Speaker of the House can invite whom he chooses to address Congress. And if the president was miffed at the selection of Netanyahu, he could have chosen to voice his objection privately. Instead, he picked a public fight and asked members of his party to choose partisan sides.
Netanyahu recognizes that Congress has a role to play in approving a nuclear agreement with Iran, as the president does not. He will tell Congress why he believes an agreement with Iran that does not eliminate the rogue nation's ability to build nuclear weapons is bad for Israel -- and for the world. And, no doubt, he will encourage Congress to try to stop a bad deal from being implemented.
If some Democrats in Congress want to rubber stamp whatever deal the administration strikes with Iran, they are free to do so. But shouldn't they at least listen to contrary arguments from one of America's most steadfast allies? And shouldn't they be as eager as Republicans to demand a vote on the issue?
The White House has upped the ante in its feud with Netanyahu by sending national security adviser Susan Rice out to warn that the prime minister's speech is "destructive of the fabric of the relationship" between the U.S. and Israel. And Secretary of State John Kerry looked ridiculous this week noting that Netanyahu's support of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 showed that "his judgment (about Iran's nuclear program) might not be correct," because Kerry himself voted to authorize the invasion while in the Senate.
The administration is charting a perilous course here. If Israel is pushed into a corner, it will -- and has every right to -- take action to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Reports that Saudi Arabia has secretly agreed to allow Israel to use Saudi airspace if Israel decides to try to take out Iran's nuclear sites make a military option more likely.
Israel is not the enemy. Iran -- especially a nuclear-armed Iran -- is. Yet President Obama seems willing to abandon an ally in hopes of appeasing an enemy. And unfortunately, by boycotting the Netanyahu speech, some Democrats will give aid and comfort to that same enemy. In the end, it will be the United States, as well as Israel, that suffers.