Some of the top anchors at Fox News have unexpectedly sided with the White House over an upcoming address by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a joint session of Congress.
A strong supporter of Republican politics, the anchors are joining a growing wave of criticism against the prime minister over the speech. Netanyahu is expected to urge US lawmakers to support an impending bill that would punish Iran with tougher sanctions should nuclear talks with the P5+1 fail to reach an agreement.
During a live chat between Chris Wallace and Shepard Smith, the two men skewered Netanyahu. They criticized his approaching speech on March 3, which is to take place two weeks before elections in Israel.
Both agreed that Netanyahu should have coordinated his visit with the Obama administration and not through members of Congress.
Smith, quoting former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, who spoke to The New York Times, said that “Netanyahu is using the Republican Congress for a photo-op for his election campaign and the Republicans are using Bibi for their campaign against Obama.”
“I think he’s a hundred percent right,” Wallace said of Indyk.
Watch: Chris Wallace Blasts Netanyahu
Wallace called House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu “wicked” and added that he was “shocked” that Netanyahu would agree to speak.
“It seems like they think we don’t pay attention and that we’re just a bunch of complete morons – the United States citizens – as if we wouldn’t pick up on what’s happening here,” Smith said.
Republicans, for their part, remain unapologetic. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) told the media that US President Barack Obama was receiving a taste of his own medicine. He called the invitation “a great idea” in the wake of Obama’s threats to push through a unilateral police on Iran without compromising with Congress.
“He’s basically said, ‘I’m going to do my thing, you do your thing.’ We got it, we got the message,” the senator said.
While Netanyahu faces criticism both domestically and abroad, the prime minister has consistently stated his belief that the Islamic Republic is using talks with the P5+1 to stall for time in order to reach the nuclear threshold.
The prime minister has maintained a more hawkish approach, calling for tougher sanctions in the face of the repeatedly failing talks. Israeli officials defended Netanyahu’s decision, saying that Obama appears to be settling to compromise with Tehran.
At the start of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu stated: “As Prime Minister of Israel, I am obligated to make every effort in order to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons that would be aimed at the State of Israel. This effort is worldwide and I will go anywhere I am invited in order to enunciate the State of Israel’s position and in order to defend its future and its existence.”
On Friday, things heated up between Netanyahu and Washington when an unnamed senior Obama official said that the prime minister “spat in our face” by agreeing to address Congress. A second official told Channel 2 that Netanyahu would be “hard to trust” following the incident.
Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have already announced that they refuse to meet with Netanyahu while he is in the US. The prime minister will also be addressing the annual AIPAC conference while in Washington.
Citing a “long-standing practice and principal,” the White House said that the president will “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.”
According to a Times of Israel report, while Obama has not met face-to-face with world leaders prior to elections, previous administrations have.
In 1996, then Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres visited the Clinton White House, less than a month before elections. He was also in Washington to address the AIPAC conference. In the face of a growing series of terror attacks and an almost non-existent popularity rating, Peres and Clinton signed an anti-terrorism agreement at a special three-part photo-op ceremony.