Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

James M. Kramon: Prime Minister Netanyahu, please stay home

Speaker John Boehner’s unprecedented invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is problematic, to say the least. This ill-considered action by Speaker Boehner is unfortunate for both political parties and, more import`antly, for our country’s dealings with the leaders of other countries in this very complex world.

It is an axiom of negotiations in foreign affairs that it is the president of the United States who speaks for our country. The president may do so through the use of delegees such as the vice-president or the secretary of state, but such individuals are empowered solely by the president and their pronouncements are ratified by the president.

One of the surest ways to embolden another country is for the United States to present itself in divided fashion. Every country has mixed motives and various political constituencies and disunity in our country’s position provides fertile ground for confusion. By dealing with Prime Minister Netanyahu in an unauthorized manner, Speaker Boehner has empowered Israel in its negotiations with this country. Such negotiations include, perhaps as their centerpiece, the world-altering matter of whether Iran obtains nuclear weapons.

In his obvious and unbecoming zeal to embarrass and undermine President Obama, Speaker Boehner has, in fact, undermined the presidency itself. Speaker Boehner may not be thinking about this right now, but this is precisely the difficulty with placing political interests above reasoned analysis. The power of our president to negotiate with leaders of other countries is a lot more important than either political party’s positions du jour.

While Speaker Boehner may not realize it, his overture to Prime Minister Netanyahu may do more harm to Republicans than Democrats. In the end, it is President Obama who will articulate and pursue the ultimate positions of the United States. Although I frequently disagree with Republican positions, it is clear to me that there is much to be said for Republican positions in matters involving our country’s relationship with Israel. I hope that President Obama is listening and taking into account the well-considered views of Republicans such as Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. That is what should be occurring in a properly functioning two-party system and Speaker Boehner’s action does not encourage it.

In addition to the considerable harm Speaker Boehner is doing to our country, he isn’t doing Israel any favor by inviting its prime minister to visit him. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s intention to accept Speaker Boehner’s invitation is receiving profound criticism throughout Israel. Even Israel’s pro-Netanyahu newspaper Hayom’s lead columnist, Dan Margalit, calls the prime minister’s planned trip “grievous, motivated not by concern for Israel, but for electoral gain.”

“I believe that this trip is cynical. I believe that this trip is not being taken for the sake of the interests of the State of Israel, rather for the needs of Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud, for the Likud election campaign,” Margalit told an Israeli television channel, and concluded that Prime Minister Netanyahu should certainly cancel the trip. “I don’t ever remember anything resembling this,” Margalit said. Other pronouncements by columnists in Ha’aretz, Israel’s influential liberal newspaper, and on Israeli television are in accord.

These are very difficult times for the leaders of countries, and in particular the United States. One day a reasonably workable alliance with a particular country prevails and the next day that country seems to have become a failed state. America finds itself taking sides from time to time with groups formerly designated as terrorists. Countries that would appear to have vital geopolitical interests in controversies sit idle while countries with little or marginal interests in those controversies involve themselves in them. This is a very bad time to introduce disarray in America’s dealings in foreign affairs.

I hope that Prime Minister Netanyahu will change his mind and decide not to accept the invitation, and that calmer and more thoughtful Republicans will prevail upon Speaker Boehner to act less precipitously.

James M. Kramon is of counsel to Kramon & Graham P.A. in Baltimore.