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The Senate on Thursday unanimously passed a resolution welcoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to America and endorsing his speech before a joint session of Congress.
Critics of the Obama administration view the unanimous approval as a rebuke to the White House and Democrats, who have vowed to boycott Netanyahu’s address and work to counter his warnings about the dangers of a nuclear Iran.
No Senate Democrats sponsored the measure, which attracted 50 Republican cosponsors. However, none attempted to block its passage, signaling that support for Israel and Netanyahu’s message has outweighed a pressure campaign by the Obama administration to sabotage the address.
“The Senate warmly welcomes the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, on his visit to the United States, which provides a timely opportunity to reinforce the United State-Israel relationship,” the resolution states.
Congress “eagerly awaits the address of Prime Minister Netanyahu before a joint meeting of the United States Congress,” it continues.
The lawmakers go on to reaffirm their “commitment to stand with Israel during times of uncertainty” and vow to “strongly support Israel’s right to defend itself from threats to its very survival,” according to the measure.
Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas), the chief sponsor of the resolution, said in a statement that the United States must be vocal about its support for the Jewish state as the Obama administration works toward a final deal with Iran that critics argue would permit it to retain the most controversial aspects of its nuclear infrastructure.
“During this time of such great instability and danger in the Middle East, the United States should be unequivocal about our commitment to one of our closest and most important allies,” Cornyn said. “I hope all my colleagues will join me in welcoming Prime Minister Netanyahu to Washington so we can continue to work together to advance our common security interests.”
Passage of the measure came on the same day it was revealed that Netanyahu would be meeting with top senators in a private meeting about Iran. The two events indicate a forceful and coordinated pushback against claims that the speech is partisan in nature.
Netanyahu is expected to tell Congress in his address—which comes as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) holds its annual conference—that the White House is on the cusp of agreeing to a deal with Iran.
Some congressional Democrats have already promised to boycott the speech, claiming Netanyahu’s presence in the United States is an attempt to interfere with the White House’s diplomacy.
The White House is already laying groundwork behind the scenes to oppose Netanyahu’s remarks. Administration officials will take to the Sunday morning news shows and other avenues to speak in favor of a deal, the Associated Press reported earlier this week.
One pro-Israel political strategist said the passage of the resolution welcoming Netanyahu highlights an internal struggle taking place among Democrats.
“By refusing to block this resolution that passed unanimously, Democrats are showing they’re still grappling with this new political situation surrounding the U.S.–Israel relationship,” said the source, who requested anonymity. “Clearly, they’re still in the process of formulating how they’re going to respond to this new context.”
“And you can see part of the internal struggle of these members play out in public when Democrats don’t cosponsor the resolution, but don’t object when it’s brought up for unanimous consent,” the source said. “Even the most liberal Democratic senator didn’t object when it would have been easy to do so if they wanted.”