House Speaker John Boehner said his upcoming trip to Israel is no “victory lap” to celebrate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election – and that it was planned months ago, before the Israeli election.
The Ohio Republican will travel to Israel this week, while Congress is on recess. He said his plans were made before the rift between Netanyahu and President Barack Obama over how to deal with Iran and Palestine burst into the open.
“There are serious issues and activities going on in the Middle East and I think it’s critically important for members of Congress to hear from foreign leaders, other governments, other parts of their government, to get a real handle on the challenges that we face there,” Boehner told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” Sunday.
Republicans are using the congressional recess to visit Israel. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, was there Sunday, and met with Netanyahu.
Boehner said Netanyahu – who’s been lambasted by Obama for his comments in the lead-up to Israel’s election that a two-state solution to Israel and Palestine’s divide is impossible – didn’t cross any lines.
“Well, he doesn’t have a partner,” Boehner said. “How do you have a two-state solution when you don’t have a partner in that solution, when you don’t have a partner for peace, when you’ve got a – when the other state is vowing to wipe you off the face of the earth?”
And he promised to move “very” quickly toward imposing steep new sanctions on Iran if Obama doesn’t strike a deal with the country to avert its nuclear ambitions – a deal that Netanyahu opposed during a high-profile speech to Congress during an early-March trip to Washington.
Boehner also defended Netanyahu from criticism from Obama and the White House that has mounted over the last month.
“I think the animosity exhibited by our administration toward the prime minister of Israel is reprehensible,” Boehner said. “And I think that the pressure that they’ve put on him over the last four or five years have frankly pushed him to the point where he had to speak up.”
“I don’t blame him at all for speaking up,” he said.