Updated, 2:26 p.m. | House Speaker John A. Boehner on Wednesday invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint meeting of Congress on Feb. 11 — an invitation the White House called a breach of normal protocol.
The invitation comes just hours after President Barack Obama, in his Tuesday night State of the Union address, warned lawmakers in both chambers he would veto any attempts to increase sanctions against Iran while the administration is involved in negotiations to limit the Islamic republic's nuclear program.
Boehner said at a press conference that he did not consult the White House prior to sending out the invitation, as is customary when it comes to coordinating such joint sessions. White House press secretary Josh Earnest, answering questions from reporters aboard Air Force One while flying to an Obama appearance Wednesday in Idaho, said the administration had not heard from the Israelis about the Feb. 11 visit.
According to the Associated Press, Earnest said the president is reserving judgment about the invitation until they've had a chance to speak to the Israelis about what Netanyahu might say.
Earnest said the typical protocol is that a country's leader would contact the White House before planning to visit the United States.
Netanyahu, who has had a rocky relationship with the White House, has consistently lobbied for Obama and the U.S. to take a more aggressive position in the ongoing negotiations to prevent Iran from obtaining the capability to produce a nuclear weapon.
“In this time of challenge, I am asking the Prime Minister to address Congress on the grave threats radical Islam and Iran pose to our security and way of life," Boehner said in a statement. "Americans and Israelis have always stood together in shared cause and common ideals, and now we must rise to the moment again.”
Netanyahu previously addressed joint sessions of Congress in 1996 and again in 2011.
Boehner told members of the Republican conference Wednesday that he wanted to send a clear message of support for Israel to the White House and to the world.
"You may have seen that on Friday, the president warned us not to move ahead with sanctions on Iran, a state sponsor of terror. His exact message to us was: 'Hold your fire.' He expects us to stand idly by and do nothing while he cuts a bad deal with Iran," Boehner said, according to a readout from the speaker's office. "Two words: 'Hell no!' … we’re going to do no such thing.
"So today I will announce that I am inviting the Prime Minister of Israel, a great friend of this country, to address a joint meeting of Congress next month."
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