Senator Whitehouse will skip Netanyahu speech

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse won’t be among those in attendance when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes his controversial address before a joint session of Congress on Tuesday.

Whitehouse is part of a growing group of Democrats who say they’ll skip Netanyahu’s speech to protest the fact that House Speaker John Boehner invited the prime minister to deliver it without first informing President Obama, which the White House considers a serious breach of diplomatic protocol.

“I do not plan to attend the prime minister’s speech,” Whitehouse said in a statement. “I’m concerned that behind it was a mischievous effort to manipulate domestic politics in both countries, which should not be the terms of engagement between friendly allies.”

However, Whitehouse emphasized that he remains “committed to a strong and lasting relationship between the United States and Israel, a country which represents our values in a very dangerous neighborhood.”

Whitehouse’s senior colleague and fellow Democrat from Rhode Island, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, feels differently. Reed, who just became the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has already confirmed plans to attend the speech.

“I’m interested in what the prime minister is going to say,” Reed told The Washington Post last week. “I think it’s already been made an unnecessarily complicated political issue, but there is still this need to learn as much as we can about the situation.”

Congressmen Jim Langevin, David Cicilline and Joe Kennedy III all plan to attend Netanyahu’s speech, as well, the Democrats’ spokeswomen told WPRI.com. Langevin is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, while Cicilline and Kennedy are members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com and writes the Nesi’s Notes blog. Follow him on Twitter: @tednesi

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