WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday defended his invitation to Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress earlier this month and mocked the Obama administration’s chilly reaction to the Israeli prime minister’s election victory.
Asked by a reporter about the administration lukewarm response to Netanyahu’s win, Boehner, R-Ohio, said, “Lukewarm?” and laughed heartily.
Since Netanyahu’s election triumph this week, the White House has said it will have to reconsider its approach considering the prime minister’s hard veer to the right in the campaign.
Netanyahu used his appearance before Congress, which was arranged by Republicans, to criticize an effort by the U.S. to strike a deal with Iran aimed at curbing that nation’s nuclear program.
Boehner said he wanted to congratulate “my friend, Benjamin Netanyahu, on his party’s victory this week.”
He said Netanyahu recognizes “the grave threats that we face from radical Islam and from Iran.” He said the prime minister “was in the perfect position to help describe that threat to the American people and, for that matter, to the rest of the world.”
President Barack Obama’s chief of staff will give a speech Monday to a major advocacy group that opposes Netanyahu.
White House chief of staff Denis McDonough’s address to the J Street group indicates that the administration will seek to strengthen voices that challenge Netanyahu.
J Street is an Israel advocacy group that often criticizes the Israeli government — and especially Netanyahu. The group calls Netanyahu’s election victory a “deep disappointment” and accuses him of winning by shredding U.S. bipartisanship on Israel and “preying on fear and racism at home.”
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