Part of growing up is learning basic life lessons. For example, when I was a little boy and wanted a toy airplane in the worst way I asked my dad for it. When he said I had a birthday coming up and should wait to see what gifts that brought me, I asked my mom for it. She responded in the exact same way. However, when they found out that I had asked each of them separately for it they both told me that my behavior was wrong and that they could guarantee that my birthday would not be brining me that toy airplane. No doubt each of you can relate to this experience. We learn at an early age that we should not try to play our parents off against each other. We also learn at an early age that we need to treat our best friends with care and not take them for granted. Sometimes that means going out of our way in order to maintain that friendship. In the international political arena ignoring these important rules can have major consequences. Yet Mr. Boehner and Mr. Netanyahu both seem to have forgotten the lessons they learned in kindergarten. Their behavior is rude, boorish, counter-productive and unbecoming of the positions of trust and leadership that they hold.
Mr. Netanyahu’s actions are crassly political and diplomatically reprehensible. His acceptance of Mr. Boehner’s invitation has broken long accepted protocols. Boehner, through his irresponsible invitation, has entered an area long understood to be the purview of the Executive Branch. To do so without consultation with the White House or the State Department is a break in protocol that is both breathtaking and extremely dangerous. It potentially gives license to other international leaders to attempt to play one parent off of the other when seeking support or assistance. Mr. Boehner’s behavior is as crassly political and irresponsible as that of Mr. Netanyahu. Both have received strong criticism from throughout the political spectrum in their respective countries. Thus, the big question before us is how to deal with these recalcitrant children who have forgotten what they learned in kindergarten.
There are many conversations within the ranks of the Democratic caucus about how to deal with Mr. Netanyahu’s appearance before a joint session of congress. There are those who are calling for a Democratic boycott of the speech. Others are calling for a walkout immediately after he is introduced. And yet others fear any such action will be an insult to the American Jewish Community and its strong support of Israel. There is also the hope within the ranks of both the Republican party and the Democratic party that the speech will simply be cancelled and any need for action or a response will simply be averted.
As an American Jew, a Democrat and a life-long supporter of Israel I feel the need to provide my response. I feel that Mr. Netanyahu has not only been destructive to the US/Israeli relationship through his ill-advised actions and behavior, but in addition he has been an impediment in the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. I understand the many security challenges confronted by Israel. I have been there many times and have walked along the borders and appreciate the danger of proximity. I understand that many in the Arab world have behaved in a manner that makes trust very difficult. I certainly understand the existential danger posed by an Iranian nuclear capability. My many trips and conversations have made me a realist. But to play one parent off against the other is counter-productive, self-defeating and a dangerous image to present to the world. It is time for Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Boehner to grow up and remember those lessons learned long ago. The potential for peace and security depend on it.