Washington (CNN) Is the Democratic party over for Israel?
Updated 5:59 AM ET, Fri February 27, 2015
For years, support for Israel has been one of the few reliably bipartisan issues on Capitol Hill, with members on both sides of the aisle embracing the embattled Middle East country and welcoming its leaders with open arms.
But when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted an invitation from Republican House Speaker John Boehner to address Congress on Tuesday — when he is expected to sharply criticize White House deal-making with Iran — he alienated more than the Democrat who sits in the Oval Office. As administration officials have exchanged increasingly hostile volleys with Netanyahu, party stalwarts are warning of a Democratic exodus away from Israel.
They caution that the rancor over the speech could accelerate demographic and political trends that suggest support for Israel is becoming a partisan issue, with Republicans strongly pro and Democrats less so.
Already 30 House Democrats have said they will boycott the speech. And when two senior Democratic senators invited Netanyahu for a private conversation during his visit to Capitol Hill, he said no. (His office said he also turned down similar requests from Republicans because he didn’t want to politicize the visit.)
Senate leadership on Thursday announced that a bipartisan meeting with the Prime Minister had at last been arranged. But many in the Democratic Party say the damage done in the run-up to the speech will linger long past Tuesday.