Liberal commentator Alan Dershowitz has slammed Democrats for planning to boycott a controversial speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next week to Congress.
In The Wall Street Journal,
the Harvard law professor emeritus said that by attending the Netanyahu’s address on March 3, Democrats can help to prevent President Barack Obama from allowing Iran to develop nuclear weapons, which could lead to a terrifying arms race in the Middle East.
"As a liberal Democrat who twice campaigned for President Obama, I am appalled that some Democratic members of Congress are planning to boycott the speech," wrote Dershowitz in the opinion piece.
"This controversy is not mainly about protocol and politics — it is about the constitutional system of checks and balances and the separation of powers. Under the Constitution, the executive and legislative branches share responsibility for making and implementing important foreign-policy decisions.
"Congress has a critical role to play in scrutinizing the decisions of the president when these decisions involve national security, relationships with allies and the threat of nuclear proliferation."
House Speaker John Boehner angered the White House by arranging the speech without the knowledge of the president, though Netanyahu has since maintained that he wrongly assumed that Boehner had informed Obama about it before approaching the prime minister’s office with the plan.
Now Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, and the third-ranking House Democrat, South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn, have indicated that they will not attend the speech
Several rank-and-file Democrats have also vowed
that they will not listen to Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress, including Reps. John Lewis of Georgia, G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Gregory Meeks of New York.
Leading Democrats are concerned that Netanyahu will use the speech to persuade congressional Democrats and the public against supporting the administration’s current nuclear talks with Iran, aimed at curtailing the Islamic Republic’s nuclear weapons program.
But Dershowitz wrote, "Congress has every right to invite, even over the president’s strong objection, any world leader or international expert who can assist its members in formulating appropriate responses to the current deal being considered with Iran regarding its nuclear weapons program.
"Indeed, it is the responsibility of every member of Congress to listen to Prime Minister Netanyahu, who probably knows more about this issue than any world leader, because it threatens the very existence of the nation state of the Jewish people."
He continued, "Congress has the right to disagree with the prime minister, but the idea that some members of Congress will not give him the courtesy of listening violates protocol and basic decency to a far greater extent than anything Mr. Netanyahu is accused of doing for having accepted an invitation from Congress.
Dershowitz also said that Obama "should urge members of Congress to do their constitutional duty of listening to opposing views in order to check and balance the policies of the administration."
And the legal expert declared that Congress has a vital role of enforcing the president’s promise "that Iran will never be allowed to develop nuclear weapons."
Dershowitz wrote, "That promise seems to be in the process of being broken, as reports in the media and Congress circulate that the deal on the table contains a sunset provision that would allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons
after a certain number of years."
"As soon as this deal is struck, with its sunset provision, these countries would begin to develop their own nuclear-weapon programs, as would other countries in the region. If Congress thinks this is a bad deal, it has the responsibility to act."
Dershowitz also warned Democrats that they would lose the support of Jewish voters in the U.S. if they turn their backs on Netanyahu, saying that "support for Israel has always been a bipartisan issue."
He went on to say, "The decision by some members to boycott … endangers this bipartisan support. This will not only hurt Israel but will also endanger support for Democrats among pro-Israel voters. I certainly would never vote for or support a member of Congress who walked out on Israel’s prime minister."
Dershowitz concluded by urging Democrats not to reject listening to a speech "from which they may learn a great deal and which may help them prevent the president from making a disastrous foreign-policy mistake."
He added, "Inviting a prime minister of an ally to educate Congress about a pressing foreign-policy decision is in the highest tradition of our democratic system of separation of powers and checks and balances."
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