Netanyahu Side-Steps White House in Bid to Sabatoge Iran Talks

At the invitation of Republican House Speaker John A. Boehner, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will travel to Washington in March to directly address Congress on Iran, side-stepping the White House in a maneuver that analysts say is aimed at sabotaging diplomatic talks.

If negotiations are torpedoed, critics warn, this would likely ratchet up escalation and even threaten war.

“What is at risk if the talks fall apart is a rapid escalation, maybe starting in the U.S., maybe in Iran,” Jamal Abdi, policy director for the National Iranian American Council, told Common Dreams. “Either way it will be a process that can’t be contained. We would very quickly see snowball effect where war becomes more and more likely.”

Netanyahu’s unusual bypassing of the U.S. president, which was described by White House spokesperson Josh Earnest as a departure from “typical protocol,” was made public less than 24 hours after President Barack Obama pledged in his State of the Union address to veto a congressional effort to pass new sanctions on Iran in the midst of talks. Obama revealed on Thursday that he will decline to meet with Netanyahu during the Prime Minister’s visit, which falls shortly before Israel’s general elections.

“As a matter of long-standing practice and principle, we do not see heads of state or candidates in close proximity to their elections, so as to avoid the appearance of influencing a democratic election in a foreign country,” said National Security Council Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan.

Voices from within Israel have criticized the visit as a cynical political move to influence the vote.

In a rare move, Israel’s Mossad spy agency has publicly broken with the Prime Minister and urged U.S. law makers to avoid passing new sanctions on Iran.

Nonetheless, Netanyahu confirmed that he plans to move forward with the trip. According to a tweet from Boehner, Netanyahu adjusted the date of his planned visit in order to attend a conference put on by the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington.