Franken to boycott controversial Netanyahu speech, but Klobuchar will be there

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's planned speech to a joint session of Congress tomorrow has become a divisive event.

Many prominent Democrats -- including Minnesotans Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum, and Al Franken -- are choosing to boycott the speech, which was organized with the help of leading Congressional Republicans behind the backs of Obama administration officials.

Background -- Netanyahu assails Iran deal, touts US-Israel ties

The lack of administration involvement in planning Netanyahu's appearance before Congress is unusual for speeches of this sort and has been characterized by Vox as "a major breech... both of diplomatic protocol for a foreign government to work directly with a US opposition party, and of political protocol for Congressional Republicans to freelance their own foreign policy independent of the White House."

In an op-ed explaining why she won't attend the speech, Rep. McCollum writes, "The speaker of the House has provided the Israeli prime minister with a global platform to both attack our president and deliver a campaign message to voters at home." (Netanyahu is in the midst of a heated reelected campaign that wraps up later this month.)

"It is my hope that Israelis will see Netanyahu's speech for what it is -- a campaign rally," McCollum continues. "Such a speech should be held on Israeli soil, not on the floor of the U.S. House."

Franken struck a similar chord in a statement of his own.

"This has unfortunately become a partisan spectacle, both because of the impending Israeli election and because it was done without consulting the administration," Franken writes. "I'd be uncomfortable being part of an event that I don't believe should be happening. I'm confident that, once this episode is over, we can reaffirm our strong tradition of bipartisan support for Israel."

Netanyahu's speech certainly has divided Congress, but according to our sources, at least one Minnesota Democrat plans to be there -- Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

The beef between Obama and Netanyahu is over Iran's nuclear program. Obama favors a negotiated agreement with Iranian leaders that would relax economic sanctions on the country in return for promises strict limits will be place on its nuclear activities.

But Netanyahu doesn't think Iranian leaders can be trusted, as he's emphasized on recent days in Twitter:

Nonetheless, during a speech today before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Netanyahu said his appearance before Congress "is not intended to show any disrespect to Obama or the esteemed office that he holds -- I have great respect for both."

"Our friendship will weather the current disagreement as well, to grow even stronger in the future -- because we share the same dreams... because the values that unite us are much stronger than the differences that divide us," Netanyahu added, going on to say he feels he has a "moral obligation" to sound the alarm about Iran.

For his part, Obama also offered up some tough talk about Iran, telling Reuters that Iranian officials would have to pledge to suspend nuclear activities for a decade as the basis for any agreement:

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