The White House has gleefully used this latest incident as an excuse to escalate tensions with Israel rather than to downplay them. The latest NYT article - based on those famous unnamed sources - is the latest part of this anti-Bibi campaign, and there is really no other way to describe it:
The Obama administration, after days of mounting tension, signaled on Wednesday how angry it is with Israel that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted Republican leaders’ invitation to address Congress on Iran without consulting the White House.Dermer says that he assumed that John Boehner would know the logistics involved when he is the one who extended the invitation:
The outrage the episode has incited within President Obama’s inner circle became clear in unusually sharp criticism by a senior administration official who said that the Israeli ambassador, Ron Dermer, who helped orchestrate the invitation, had repeatedly placed Mr. Netanyahu’s political fortunes above the relationship between Israel and the United States.
The official who made the comments to The New York Times would not be named, and the White House declined to comment. The remarks were the latest fallout after Mr. Dermer, without the White House’s knowledge, worked with House Speaker John A. Boehner to arrange the speech, which is scheduled for March.
The remarks are likely to escalate a feud between the White House, Republicans on Capitol Hill and Mr. Netanyahu over the invitation, which has led to a new low in American-Israeli relations and threatened to mar the long tradition of bipartisan support for Israel in Congress.
In a telephone interview late Wednesday, Mr. Dermer said, “I have no regrets whatsoever that I have acted in a way to advance my country’s interests.” He said he never meant to slight the White House by keeping the confidence of the House speaker, who had suggested the invitation. He said he left it to Mr. Boehner to notify Mr. Obama’s team.Rather than investigating whether this makes sense, the NYT then takes aim at Dermer:
“My understanding was that it was the speaker’s prerogative to do, and that he would be the one to inform the administration,” Mr. Dermer said. “The prime minister feels very strongly that he has to speak on this issue. That’s why he accepted the invitation, not to wade into your political debate or make this a partisan issue, and not to be disrespectful to the president.”
“He’s a political operative, he’s not really an ambassador,” said Daniel C. Kurtzer, a former United States ambassador to Israel. “What he did was totally unacceptable from a standpoint of diplomacy. To think about going behind the back of a friendly country’s administration and working out this kind of arrangement with the parliament or the Congress — it’s unheard-of.”Kurtzer is essentially calling Congress an enemy of the White House, colluding with foreign leaders against the President. Isn't that a bigger deal than how Israel acts?
Mr. Kurtzer said while it was unlikely the Obama administration would take the extraordinary step of declaring Mr. Dermer “persona non grata” — the official method for a foreign diplomat to be ousted from a country — it could request that Mr. Dermer by reprimanded or removed.
“He has soiled his pad; who’s he going to work with?” Mr. Kurtzer said.
But the Times is silent on this.
While I don't know if it is wiser for Bibi to keep his appointment with Congress or to apologize to Israel's best ally over this incident, it sure seems that the lack of public anger from the White House towards the person who actually extended the invitation indicates that this supposedly huge breach of protocol is more an excuse to attack Bibi than anything else.
Which also indicates that Obama is trying to use this incident to affect the Israeli elections, taking its cue from some left-wing Israeli media who have pounced on this incident. And not affecting the elections was the supposed initial excuse given for Obama not to meet with Netanyahu to begin with!
I wish some real reporter would call up the Office of the Chief of Protocol and find the written rules around visits by heads of state that are not initiated by the President. Obviously the New York Times can't think of doing something that simple to find out exactly how this should have been played out.