Most Americans Oppose GOP’s Decision To Invite Netanyahu To Speak Before Congress

By a wide margin Americans think it was wrong of the GOP to invite Israel's Prime Minister to speak to Congress.

Barack Obama, Benjamin Netanyahu

A new CNN/ORC poll shows that a majority of Americans oppose the decision of Congressional Republicans to invite Israel’s Prime Minister to speak to Congress over the objections of the White House:

A large majority of Americans believe that Republican congressional leaders should not have invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress without consulting the White House, according to a new CNN/ORC survey.

The nationwide poll, released Tuesday, shows 63% of Americans say it was a bad move for congressional leadership to extend the invitation without giving President Barack Obama a heads up that it was coming. Only 33% say it was the right thing to do.

And as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to simmer in the Middle East, the survey found that a similar majority thinks the U.S. should stay out of that fight altogether.

House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu sparked a minor international incident and further strained already tense relations between the U.S. and Israeli leaders. Netanyahu is expected to make the case to Congress next month for increased sanctions on Iran, a key point of contention between the Israeli leader and Obama, who has been urging Congress to hold off on further sanctions for fear of jeopardizing nuclear talks with the nation.

Obama has said he will not meet with Netanyahu during his visit because the trip comes too close to Israel’s elections. A growing number of Democrats in both chambers have announced over the past two weeks that they won’t be attending the speech, prompting some to question whether the Israeli leader should cancel or move his speech.

Though the speech has become a partisan issue on Capitol Hill, even Republicans are split on whether it was a good idea for leadership to invite Netanyahu without alerting the White House, with a slight majority — 52% — backing the move. Just 14% of Democrats say it was the right thing to do, and just over a third of independents support the move.

But Americans overall believe the U.S. should stay out of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with 66% in the new poll advocating the U.S. remain neutral. Of those who do support picking a side, the majority, 29%, back Israel, while only 2% support Palestine.

Even Republicans, typically seen as the party offering the strongest defense of Israel, are split on whether the U.S. should officially support Israel in the conflict. Forty-nine percent support backing the nation, while 47% say the U.S. should stay out of it.

To some degree at least this is a surprising result given the fact that the American public has generally been quite supportive of Israel. The one exception to that general rule recently came during last summers Gaza War when polling indicated that Americans were divided on whether or not Israel was justified in pursuing its actions against Hamas, many of which had devastating impacts for civilians who just happened to be living in areas near Hamas military targets. At the time, some commentators wondered whether the daily images of civilian casualties would have an impact on the American public’s historic support for Israel, and for the fact that Americans tend to have a more positive view of Israel than they do of Palestinians. At the time, I suggested that the American people would likely maintain there generally positive views of the U.S.-Israeli relationship, but these numbers raise the possibility that we may be looking at a change in that position. The reason for that, though, seems to have less to do with Israel itself or with the policies of the Israeli government than it does with modern American politics.

Historically, support for Israel has been a bipartisan affair from which there was very little dissent. It was a Democratic President, Harry Truman, who was among the most important supporters of the establishment of the State of Israel, for example, and while the relationship between the U.S. and Israel during the 1950s and 60s was quite different than it it today, the two nations have maintained a close relationship over what nearly amounts to 70 years at this point regardless of which party controlled the White House. Additionally, at the Congressional level Israel has always enjoyed strong support from Republicans and Democrats alike. There have been moments of tension, of course, such as during the Suez Crisis in the 1950s, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in the 1980s, and intermittently over the entire Israeli-Palestinian issue. For the most part, though, critics of Israel in both parties have been in the minority. In recent years, though, and especially since Barack Obama became President, the issue of the U.S. relationship with Israel has taken on a decidedly partisan tone in the sense that it has often seemed as though the President’s critics in the Republican Party have become stronger supporters of the current Prime Minister of Israel than of the President of the United States. Speaker Boehner’s decision to go over the President’s head and invite Netanyahu to speak is arguably just the latest manifestation of that trend.

Viewed in that context, these poll numbers are likely more a reflection of the fact that the public does not approve of Congress undercutting the President on foreign policy in such an open and direct manner. In that sense, it’s arguably consistent with other polling that has shown the public’s dislike of how the Republican Congress has acted in its interactions with the President such as during the debt ceiling showdown in the summer of 2011 or the government shutdown fiasco of 2013. For that reason, I tend to doubt that this one incident will have much of a long-term impact on the American public’s perception of Israel. However, these numbers should stand as a warning to Prime Minister Netanyahu that it isn’t necessarily in his country’s interests to get involved in an internal American partisan dispute in the manner that he has let himself be this time.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Middle East, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. PJ says:

    Mistrust between the Obama administration and Benjamin Netanyahu has widened even further in recent days because of U.S. suspicion that the Israeli prime minister has authorized leaks of details about the U.S. nuclear talks with Iran.

    If true, when he lands, send him to ADX Florence.

  2. JohnMcC says:

    There is a significant number of ‘conservatives’ who do not see any distance between what they imagine to be ‘America’ and what they imagine to be ‘Israel’. These same people tend to look on PM Netanyahu as essentially the same as a Republican. I am relieved that CNN could only find that 33% of respondents lack that perception.

  3. Mu says:

    Bibi got hit with a major ethics charge today. He might not get an exit visa to leave the country.

  4. C. Clavin says:

    Support for Israel, and support for Netanyahu’s re-election are two distinctly different things.
    In spite of his claims to the contrary, Netanyahu does NOT speak for all Jews everywhere.
    33% is basically the Republican base…they would applaud anything Republicans did…especially the intentional undermining of a sitting Presidents (Obama’s) Foreign Policy.
    Can you imagine the screaming, from the right-wing entertainment complex, had Pelosi done something like this to Bush43?

  5. gVOR08 says:

    I suspect this largely reflects the main stream reporting, which has been surprisingly up front that this is a deliberate slight of the sitting president for no reason except partisan politics, ours and Israel’s both. I’m sure the MSM would have preferred a both sides do it narrative, but that would have been difficult to construct. The MSM would have called Jewish leaders looking for quotes supportive of Boehner/Bibi and apparently failed to find much. They would also have called Jewish congress people for quotes, and found they are all either Democrats or Bernie Sanders. So it looks like this comes down to Netanyahu having pissed off a lot more people than just Obama. And convinced them that support for Israel and support for Netanyahu are far from the same thing.

  6. Tillman says:

    @gVOR08: I’m as surprised as you are that the media couldn’t equivocate on this one.

    I mean, how many of our institutions have been politicized?

  7. anjin-san says:

    @C. Clavin:

    done something like this to Bush43?

    You mean back in the days when even questioning the “Unitary Executive” was crypto-treason?

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    However, these numbers should stand as a warning to Prime Minister Netanyahu that it isn’t necessarily in his country’s interests to get involved in an internal American partisan dispute in the manner that he has let himself be this time.

    “Let himself,” Doug? He didn’t allow Boehner to manipulate him into American politics, he actively inserted himself into our politics. Just like he did back in 2012. The man is a colossal d!ck with a Texas sized ego who can’t stand Obama because Obama won’t be a good lick-spittle like W was and just do what Bibi tells him to. Obama seems to understand that America’s interests are not necessarily the same as Likud’s.***

    *** not for a second do I believe Netanyahu can tell the difference between what is good for Israel, and what is good for Likud.

  9. C. Clavin says:

    Or that questioning the invasion and occupation of Iraq (which would become the biggest Foreign Policy blunder ever) was un-patriotic.

  10. stonetools says:

    So Boehner screws the pooch yet again…
    Generally, I’m somewhat sympathetic to someone running the madhouse that is the House Republican caucus, but it’s now becoming apparent that he is one of the worst speakers ever-certainly, the worst post WW2.
    As a liberal, I think Obama has made some mistakes, but he sure has the best enemies…

  11. John425 says:

    Gee, and I thought the Constitution’s “freedom of speech and “freedom of assembly” applied to everyone. Silly me.

  12. An Interested Party says:

    Gee, and I thought the Constitution’s “freedom of speech and “freedom of assembly” applied to everyone. Silly me.

    Umm, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly don’t equal freedom from criticism or freedom from pointing out a transparent partisan political stunt…

  13. michael reynolds says:

    Um, it does, which is why the government is not acting. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from criticism.

  14. PJ says:


    Gee, and I thought the Constitution’s “freedom of speech and “freedom of assembly” applied to everyone. Silly me.

    More than 99.9999% of Americans don’t get to speak in front of a joint session of Congress either.

    Why are Republicans denying the Constitution’s “freedom of speech and “freedom of assembly” for more than 99.9999% of Americans?

    Shouldn’t you be really upset about that?

  15. michael reynolds says:

    Hey, now I’m pissed. I could do a speech. I’m pretty good with school presentations, Keynote all loaded up with video and slides and cool transitions. I usually speak at middle schools, but I could simplify for Congress.

  16. John425 says:

    @PJ: @michael reynolds:

    Both of you together wouldn’t make a half-wit. You want to address Congress? Get invited. Otherwise, stick to blogs like this and the street corners if you wish to blather.

  17. bill says:

    most Americans didn’t want obamacare either- and how many even know who bibi really is anyways? what’s the point?

  18. anjin-san says:


    You want to address Congress? Get invited

    Maybe he doesn’t know any congressmen who have questionable loyalty to America to invite him.

  19. John425 says:

    @anjin-san: Poppycock! Surely they slavishly attend to Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and other, lesser fools.

  20. anjin-san says:


    Ah John? Harry Ried is a Senator. I thought I talked to you about drinking and commenting. Unless you really don’t know how the government works…

  21. KM says:


    Gee, and I thought the Constitution’s “freedom of speech and “freedom of assembly” applied to everyone.

    Ummmmm, he’s not an American. Unless your argument is that the Constitution should protect all non-citizens with the same level of full rights and privileges as citizens – in which case, the anti-immigrants nuts would like to have a word with you….

  22. Barry says:

    @JohnMcC: “These same people tend to look on PM Netanyahu as essentially the same as a Republican.”

    More like Netanyahu is the ‘rightful’ president of IsraUSA.

  23. jewelbomb says:

    @KM: It never ceases to amaze me that those who tend most frequently to screech about the Constitution tend also not have have the slightest understanding of what the provisions therein actually mean.

  24. gVOR08 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    …I could simplify for Congress.

    Much as I respect your writing skills, no, I don’t think you could.

  25. gVOR08 says:

    @jewelbomb: I’m reminded of Rush Limbaugh’s attempt to buy into an NFL team years ago. A lot of players protested they wanted nothing to do with him and eventually stopped it. Predictably the right screeched about free speech. In response, people pointed out that no one had lifted a finger to stop Rush from saying a single one of the stupid things that got him in trouble.

  26. C. Clavin says:

    I see Bill O’Really now says we are in a “HOLY WAR” and NO ONE is safe as long as ISIS exists.
    As I said…diaper brigade.

  27. grumpy realist says:

    @John425: And where is there a law forbidding any of Netanyahu’s and Boehner’s shenanigans, pray tell?

    That phrase from the Constitution doesn’t mean that a bunch of us can’t sit around and discuss how this is a really dumb political move.

    Learn what the Constitution actually means, please.

  28. C. Clavin says:
  29. John425 says:

    @KM: Actually, I was referring to the individual American congressperson’s rights. Too nuanced for you, I guess.

    @C. Clavin: I really liked the part where I apply the arsehole bit to you too. Ironic that you don’t want to apply the freedoms to those who disagree with you. But then, that’s the “libruls for you.

  30. David M says:


    You’ve already dug the hole, maybe it’s time to stop digging?

  31. An Interested Party says:

    Too nuanced for you, I guess.

    That’s rich coming from someone who is complaining about a lack of free speech when no one is denying anyone their free speech rights but what is really going on is a wealth of free criticism…someone should learn the difference…

  32. KM says:

    @John425 :

    Too nuanced for you, I guess.

    Your quote, in its entirety: “Gee, and I thought the Constitution’s “freedom of speech and “freedom of assembly” applied to everyone. Silly me.”

    [noo-ahns, nyoo-, noo-ahns, nyoo-; French ny-ahns]
    noun, plural nuances
    [noo-ahn-siz, nyoo-, noo-ahn-siz, nyoo-; French ny-ahns] (Show IPA)
    1. a subtle difference or distinction in expression, meaning, response, etc.
    2. a very slight difference or variation in color or tone.

    Now… which word has the nuance here. Everyone? Freedom? Constitution’? Silly? Or did you hear someone smarter then you use that word and tried to repeat it to cover your ass when your lack of clarity was pointed out. Say what you mean, sir and no one can mistake your point. One must have wit to be subtle and you do not have the soul for brevity. Your unclear declarations don’t make you clever – they make you look like you can’t make a point properly.

  33. Deserttrek says:

    a cnn poll? can’t do better than that?

  34. PJ says:


    a cnn poll? can’t do better than that?

    Well, you obviously can’t.

    Some help:
    Is there anything wrong with the poll? The methodology?
    Or do you have anything that contradicts what the poll shows?


    a cnn poll? can’t do better than that?

    really isn’t going to convince anyone.

  35. al-Ameda says:


    Generally, I’m somewhat sympathetic to someone running the madhouse that is the House Republican caucus, but it’s now becoming apparent that he is one of the worst speakers ever-certainly, the worst post WW2.

    Even if you account for the fact that “you play the hand you’re dealt,” by nearly any objective measure John Boehner is the worst Speaker of The House in the past 40 years.

    I don’t envy his having to deal with midgets and toxic people like Steve King, Louie Gohmert, and Michelle Bachmann, but he’s let those clowns drive the Republican bus for too long.