Maloney undecided on attending Netanyahu speech

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney is still weighing whether he’ll attend Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday or join at least two dozen other House Democrats in boycotting the controversial appearance to show solidarity with the White House.

The Cold Spring Democrat has issued a statement criticizing House Speaker John Boehner for his “partisan and poorly timed decision” to invite Netanyahu to the Capitol to air his objections to President Obama’s negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. The impending speech, coming during the lead-up to Israeli elections, has inflamed tensions between the White House and a major U.S. ally and angered many Democrats, who view it as a snub of the President.

Here’s Maloney’s statement:

“Congress has traditionally set aside partisanship to come together to promote the safety and security of our strategic ally, and I strongly disagree with Speaker Boehner’s partisan and poorly timed decision. I continue to hope that all parties can make adjustments to ensure all supporters can be in attendance at this joint meeting of Congress.”

The Hill newspaper has so far tallied 25 House Democrats and four senators who have said they plan to skip Netanyahu’s speech, and counted many more who said they will go. Both Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Nita Lowey, a Westchester Democrat who represents a district abutting Maloney’s 18th, plan to be in the audience, according to The Hill.

Leaders of the Satmar Hasidic community of Kiryas Joel distributed a letter this week that their mayor, Abraham Wieder, sent to Maloney to urge him to boycott the speech. Though the letter bemoans the disrespect being shown to Obama, the underlying motivation appears to be the Satmar movement’s strongly anti-Zionist sentiment, which began with their founder, Joel Teitelbaum, and stems from the ultra-Orthodox belief that the state of Israel shouldn’t exist until the Messiah returns.

Wieder wrote on Tuesday:

The intent of this letter is three-fold: first to defend the honor and prestige of the office of the President; second to decry Netanyahu’s breach of diplomatic protocol and last but not least to repudiate his claim to be a spokesman of the Jewish people. Neither he nor his state represent world Jewry.

He concluded by telling Maloney his absence from Tuesday’s speech “would send a clear message that your constituents want no part of Netanyahu’s callousness toward the office of the President.”


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