Did Boehner Just Admit He Kept White House Out of the Loop on Netanyahu Invitation?


The geopolitical grade school drama that is House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) speaking invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu got another scene this morning, as Boehner seemed to tacitly admit to Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace that he had kept the Obama administration in the dark on the invite.

Long dumb story real short: Boehner invited Netanyahu to address Congress on the U.S.’s negotiations with Iran over their nuclear program. (The date is before the negotiation’s conclusion, presumably not an accident.) The Obama administration claimed he had done so without consulting the White House, which would constitute a breach of diplomatic protocol. The Israelis say that it was Boehner’s job to inform the White House, and so accepted the invitation, which pissed off the Obama administration. But the Israelis also said Boehner’s invitation had been presented as a bipartisan offering, which appears to have come as news to the congressional Democrats, some of whom plan to boycott Netanyahu’s speech. Boehner meanwhile says he gave the White House ample heads up.

It’s this last part that appears to have been complicated in his Fox interview this morning. Boehner told Wallace:

“I wanted to make sure there was no interference. There’s no secret here in Washington about the animosity that this White House has for Prime Minister Netanyahu. I frankly didn’t want them getting in the way and quashing what I thought was a real opportunity.”

That sure sounded to liberal Israeli paper Haaretz like Boehner was all but bragging that he’d kept the White House out of the loop until literally the last possible hour:

Boehner’s remarks contradict the earlier claim by him and his staff that he gave the White House sufficient warning about the Netanyahu invite – when in reality they updated the administration an hour before announcing it to the press. In other words, Boehner has admitted to keeping the White House in the dark about his contact with [Israeli Ambassador] Ron Dermer.

David Bernstein at the Volokh Conspiracy has an excellent breakdown of all the various scenarios at play here. One of them: if the invitation was indeed a bipartisan gesture, then Democratic lawmakers must have been aware of it, which would almost certainly mean the White House was informed; the Democrats’ subsequent surprise at the invitation would seem to belie this. Boehner’s comments this morning appear to back up that notion that he endeavored to keep the White House from “interfering” with the invitation.

At the heart of this dispute is “who politicized Israel?” If Boehner did in fact present a faux-bipartisan invitation to Netanyahu as a way to outflank the White House, it would appear he had used Israel as political maneuver against Obama; if the White House knew of the invitation but caused a conflagration over it anyway, then it was the Obama administration making Israel a pawn to its political advantage. As Bernstein reminds, this is all a sideshow from the ostensible issue of reigning in Iran’s nuclear program.

Watch Boehner’s remarks below, via Fox News, hurray:

[Image via screengrab]

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