Sen. Bernie Sanders became the latest member of Congress to announce plans to skip Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address in March.
"I am not thinking about going, I am not going," the Vermont Independent stated definitely after delivering remarks to an audience at the Brookings Institution
"The President of the United States heads up our foreign policy and the idea that the president was not even consulted was wrong," argued Sanders, who refused to speculate on how many Democrats shared his intention to boycott the March 3 address to a joint session of Congress.
Sanders and congressional Democrats have been outspoken in their displeasure with the fact House Speaker John Boehner, without notifying the Obama administration, invited Netanyahu to speak to Congress about the potential danger if the U.S. weakens its approach toward Iran.
Today in a joint press conference with German Prime Minister Angela Merkel, President Barack Obama reiterated he would not attend because of the longstanding "policy" of the administration not to meet with foreign leaders before an election, according to Yahoo! News
"Some of this has to do with how we do business," he said, adding that it was important for him to adhere to diplomatic protocol and joked that he would even refuse an invitation from Merkel to meet in close proximity with her election.
In January, the White House cited the proximity to Israel's March 17 elections after it was learned Obama would not attend the speech, The Wall Street Journal reported
Secretary of State John Kerry will not be present for Netanyahu's remarks, which likely will focus heavily on the need for keeping strong sanctions on Iran, and last Thursday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that Vice President Joe Biden's schedule for the first week of March was "not set yet."
And Congressional Black Caucus members Georgia Democrat John Lewis and caucus chairman G. K. Butterfield, a North Carolina Democrat, have announced they will not attend, reports The Grio
Other members of the CBC are currently circulating a letter asking for a delay, reports Bloomberg News
Earnest claimed the "vice president takes very seriously
the ceremonial responsibilities that he has before the United States Senate. That's everything from participating in swearing-in ceremonies to participating in the convening of joint sessions of Congress."
A day later, the administration released a statement asserting that Biden would not preside over the Senate when the Israeli leader delivers his speech because he would be traveling abroad.
"We are not ready to announce details of his trip yet, and normally our office wouldn't announce this early, but the planning process has been underway for a while," a spokesman said in a statement, according to the Los Angeles Times
"We will announce additional information as soon as we are able," the statement continued.
On Friday, Abe Foxman
of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) called on Netanyahu to cancel the speech, telling the Jewish Forward that delivering the speech would counter-productive because of the political nature the controversy has taken.
"It has been hijacked by politics. Now is a time to recalibrate, restart and find a new platform and new timing to take away the distractions," said Foxman.
The controversy grew even more complicated after Tzachi Hanegbi, Israel's deputy foreign minister and a member of the Likud's top leadership circle, said in a radio interview that Speaker Boehner misled Netanyahu into believing the invitation was bipartisan.
"It appears that the speaker of Congress made a move, in which we trusted, but which it ultimately became clear was a one sided move and not a move by both sides," Hanegbi said, according to The Jewish Forward.
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