Last week, 23 House Democrats asked Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to postpone Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to a joint meeting of Congress scheduled for March 3. But it is absolutely clear that the speaker will neither postpone nor rescind his invitation. The prime minister will be there to speak.
Therefore, I appeal to those 23 individuals and any other undecided members of Congress to go to the joint meeting and hear what the prime minister has to say. Let me suggest some good reasons why:
Go because this is about determining how best to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons and not just another Washington test of partisan and political loyalty.
Go because — regardless of what you think of the leaders involved or their actions in this case — you are a strong supporter of America’s alliance with Israel, and you don’t want it to become a partisan matter.
Go because you know that the Constitution gives you, as a member of Congress, the power to “regulate commerce with foreign nations,” “define and punish … offenses against the law of nations,” “declare war,” “raise and support armies” and “provide and maintain a Navy,” and Netanyahu might say some things that will inform your exercise of those great powers.
Go because you know that Israel is one of our closest and most steadfast allies and you feel a responsibility to listen to its leader speak about developments that he believes could threaten the safety, independence and even existence of his country, as well as that of our closest allies in the Arab world.
Go because you worry that it is not just the security of Israel and the Arab nations but the security of the United States that will be threatened if a bad agreement is made with Iran that enables it to build nuclear weapons it could put on its increasingly capable long-range missiles.
Go because you are concerned about nuclear weapons proliferation and believe that a faulty deal with Iran will not only put it on the road to becoming a nuclear power but will also lead some of Iran’s Arab neighbors to acquire nuclear weapons as soon as possible.
In sum, there is too much on the line in the negotiations with Iran for members of Congress — including U.S. Reps. Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum of Minnesota, who both signed the letter seeking the delay — to decide not to listen to what Netanyahu, or any other ally, has to say on this subject. Just as British Prime Minister David Cameron deserved respectful attention when he called individual members of Congress recently to ask them to delay adopting more sanctions on Iran, and the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Britain deserved respectful reading when they made the same appeal to Congress in a commentary in the Washington Post, so too does the prime minister of Israel deserve to be listened to respectfully by members of Congress when he speaks next week.
At this very unstable moment in history, we cannot and must not avert our attention from what remains the greatest threat to the security of America and the world.
Joseph I. Lieberman represented Connecticut in the U.S. Senate from 1989 to 2013, serving three terms as a Democrat and one as an independent. He wrote this article for the Washington Post.