Kevin McCarthy's

DC — Washington.

When is an invitation more than just an invitation; when is it a reckless disregard for protocol, a reckless shift in party allegiance, and a self-serving political strategy?

Critics complain when House Speaker Kevin McCarthy travels abroad to meet with an unpopular foreign leader before he visits Congress to discuss White House selections.

The Republican from Bakersfield led a team to Israel today, where they met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and where he gave a speech to the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, becoming just the second speaker of the House of Representatives to do so (the first being Newt Gingrich in 1998).

While on trial for corruption, Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, has already begun plans to alter the judiciary and other organisations in ways that many Israelis say will completely weaken democracy. His actions have sparked widespread protests throughout Israel, attracting everyone from military personnel to academics to regular citizens.

President Biden, in a rare display of criticism, has said that Netanyahu’s actions might compromise the deeply held values he believes the United States and Israel have always shared. Since Netanyahu’s return to power at the end of 2015, Biden has been unusually reluctant to welcome him to the White House, even though the two are close allies.

McCarthy made the statement in Israel that Biden had delayed “too long” to invite Netanyahu. Netanyahu-friendly Israel Hayom was founded by the late American casino tycoon and mega-donor to the Republican Party and right Israeli causes, Sheldon Adelson. “If that does not occur, I’ll welcome the prime minister to come meet your home,” he told the daily.

It used to be frowned upon for some high-ranking American officials to go overseas and publicly criticise the foreign policy initiatives of the federal government. You may say anything you want at home, but not abroad; this is the “never ever beyond the water’s edge” teaching.

Such diplomatic norms seem to be a thing of the past.

It was in 2015 when Republican lawmakers summoned the Israeli prime minister to Washington to address a joint session of Congress, and McCarthy’s invitation to Netanyahu recalls that same move.

Netanyahu avoided visiting the White House because of his frosty relationship with then-President Obama. In his address, he attacked one of Obama’s most important diplomatic initiatives: the international agreement that limits Iran’s nuclear operations.

Several diplomats and specialists have argued that McCarthy is more direct in his efficiency. The Republican Party remains firmly in Netanyahu’s increasingly contentious side.

Gingrich presumably first used Israel as a party wedge issue in the late 1990s.

Trump, the previous president, solidified the trend by publicly favouring Israel over the Palestinians in all matters, including the ongoing debate with Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In defiance of years of understanding that the holy city remained a topic of controversy, Obama relocated the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Many American and Israeli diplomats and political leaders criticised that approach.

Israel’s strong bipartisan support in the United States is a reflection of this fact. No matter whose political party was in the White House or in control of Congress, support was constant.

McCarthy praised the bipartisan support for Israel in his address to the Knesset. Yet others took the opposite view.

For longtime U.S. Middle East diplomat Aaron David Miller, McCarthy’s “move demonstrates how partisan Israel has actually become in United States politics with Rs as the Israel we like you ideal or incorrect celebration,” tweeted.

Miller elaborated, saying that this fits in with “Republican efforts to corner the market on support for Israel and to paint Democrats as at best not dedicated.” As the speaker puts it, “It’s a natural symbiosis, which is why it’s so harmful.”

McCarthy was probably trying to appease Jewish Americans and the pro-Israel elements of the GOP base who have checked his unusual hold on power. The tide of public opinion has turned, and his calculations were wrong.

There has been a gradual but noticeable shift among long-time American supporters of Israel to opposition of the current Netanyahu administration, which is dominated by radical ultra-Orthodox and ultranationalist political figures. While tens of thousands of Israelis have been holding weekly street demonstrations in Tel Aviv since the beginning of the year, hundreds of thousands of American Jews have held demonstration rallies outside Israeli diplomatic objectives in many U.S. cities.

Alon Pinkas, a political analyst and veteran Israeli ambassador, expressed doubt that McCarthy’s overtures to Netanyahu would result in an audience with President Trump. Pinkas said in the very critical of Netanyahu Israeli newspaper Haaretz that McCarthy’s “sycophantic relationship with Trump” had made him “a voodoo doll” for the White House and most Democrats.

Netanyahu’s threat, or promise, to visit Washington D.C. if Biden does not may be a last-ditch attempt to convince the Israeli prime to visit the United States’ capital. “It could turn out to be harmful,” Pinkas said. It cements Netanyahu’s position as a Republican and sets him against Vice President Joe Biden.

When asked about McCarthy’s trip to Israel, administration officials under Biden confirmed their familiarity of the speaker’s comments but reiterated that no Netanyahu visit to the White House was scheduled.

John Kirby, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, pointed out that “Israeli leaders have a long custom of going to Washington,” recalling the longstanding friendship between Biden and Netanyahu. Kirby said he expected Netanyahu to visit “eventually,” but that in the meanwhile, the administration would have “frank conversations” with Israel about the judicial changes and other moves that might threaten the rights of nonreligious Jews and minorities.

Officials at the State Department, which has been unusually muted in its condemnation of Netanyahu’s actions, were similarly evasive. When asked whether Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken would see Netanyahu if he stayed in town at McCarthy’s request, State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said he would not take part in “a theoretical.”

“We undoubtedly stay in close touch with our Israeli partners at all levels,” Patel said. Our cooperation and friendship with Israel runs deep. We’ll keep talking with them; I can’t give you any inside information.

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