House Speaker John Boehner has invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress on Iran on Feb. 11. The White House, which was not consulted about the invitation, called it a departure from diplomatic protocol.
NPR's Ailsa Chang tells our Newscast unit that Boehner, R-Ohio, defended his decision not to consult with the White House.
"The Congress can make this decision on its own," the House speaker said. "I don't believe I'm poking anyone in the eye. There is a serious threat that exists in the world, and the president last night kind of papered over it."
In his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, President Obama noted that "between now and this spring, we have a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed Iran; secures America and our allies — including Israel; while avoiding yet another Middle East conflict."
There is bipartisan support to impose more sanctions on Iran, which Israel views as a threat, but Obama has threatened to veto any sanctions, saying they would derail the talks with Iran.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday that the administration would reserve judgment on Netanyahu's visit until it had discussed it with Israeli officials. He said the U.S. did not hear from the Israeli side about the visit and came to know about it only shortly before Boehner's announcement. He said that typically, a country's leader would contact the White House before a visit.
"The protocol would suggest that the leader of one country would contact the leader of another country when he's traveling there," Earnest said aboard Air Force One. "This particular event seems to be a departure from that protocol."
Earnest added the White House hadn't decided whether to meet with the Israeli leader.
"We'll need to hear from them about what their plans are and what he plans to say in his remarks to Congress before we have a decision to make about any meeting," he said.