Sen. Tim Kaine is the latest Democrat to announce he will not attend Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to a joint meeting of Congress next week.
The Virginian said in a statement provided first to CQ Roll Call that he's concerned in particular about the timing of the March 3 address, just weeks ahead of the scheduled Knesset elections on March 17.
"As a long-time supporter of the U.S-Israel relationship, I believe the timing of Prime Minister Netanyahu's address to Congress — just days before Israeli elections — is highly inappropriate. On January 30, I delivered a letter to Speaker Boehner asking that the speech to Congress be postponed so that there was no appearance of U.S. favoritism in a foreign election," Kaine said. "There is no reason to schedule this speech before Israeli voters go to the polls on March 17 and choose their own leadership. I am disappointed that, as of now, the speech has not been postponed. For this reason, I will not attend the speech."
Kaine's letter to Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, was not circulated publicly when he sent it.
"A number of respected Israeli national security and political leaders have criticized the address as improperly mixing American foreign policy with Israeli domestic politics. Creating such an impression is not only disrespectful to the Israeli electorate, it also undermines the institutional values that Congress should uphold," Kaine wrote in the letter. "Just as we would resent another nation openly attempting to influence an American election, Congress should not give the appearance that we are engaging in such activity."
Vice President Joesph R. Biden Jr. will not be in attendance for the Netanyahu speech, and National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice said Tuesday on "Charlie Rose" that the manner in which the speech has become partisan in both Israel and the United States has been "destructive of the fabric of the relationship."
In a separate letter , 23 House Democrats last week called for Boehner to work to postpone Netanyahu's speech.
"Aside from being improper, this places Israel, a close and valued ally, in the middle of a policy debate between Congress and the White House. We should not turn our diplomatic friendship into a partisan issue. Beyond threatening our diplomatic priorities, the timing of this invitation offers the Congressional platform to elevate a candidate in a foreign election," those lawmakers wrote.
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