- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 15, 2015

Former Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said Sunday that Congress‘ invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu without consulting the White House creates another partisan divide over an issue that should bring lawmakers together.

“I’m just afraid what’s going to happen here with what Netanyahu will do is to make this a partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans, that makes it a very dangerous trend,” Mr. Panetta said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

House Speaker John Boehner invited Mr. Netanyahu to address Congress next month about the threat of nuclear weapons in Iran without first telling the White House. Some Democrats, including Vice President Joe Biden, have said they will not attend the speech.

Mr. Panetta said it’s up to individual lawmakers to decide if they will attend the speech, adding that all lawmakers could benefit from listening to the prime minister’s message regardless of the partisan invitation.

“I’ll leave that up to Democrats to decide what they should do, but I really hope hopefully they can find some way to listen to Netanyahu’s views without having it be used in this fashion,” said Mr. Panetta, himself a former Democratic congressman and CIA director.

Mr. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said that he had every right to invite the prime minister without consulting the administration, noting that the threats of Islamic terrorism and a nuclear-armed Iran are not going away.

“These are important messages that the Congress needs to hear and the American people need to hear, and I believe Prime Minister Netanyahu is the person to deliver how serious this threat is,” Mr. Boehner said on “Fox News Sunday.”

GOP lawmakers want to impose stricter economic sanctions in Iran, but President Obama has asked that they don’t take any action until administration officials wrap up the latest round of nuclear talks with Iran next month.

“I understand that he doesn’t want them,” Mr. Boehner said of the sanctions. “He doesn’t quite understand that we’re trying to strengthen his hand.”

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