Since Speaker of the House Boehner's January 22 announcement of his invitation to Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress, an ugly unprecedented partisan divide has ensued up and down Pennsylvania Avenue. Thus far, a vacuum of leadership has allowed the situation to grow and risk damaging the bipartisan fundamentals of the relationship. My idea of what AIPAC should be saying follows.
AIPAC is 100,000 Americans from every state, Jews and Christians, White and Black, Republicans, Democrats and Independents. All work every day demonstrating their nonpartisan commitment to strengthening the U.S. relationship with Israel. The bedrock principle of this work is non-partisanship. We stand for America's national security interest, it knows no political party.
No organization is more concerned and distressed with perceptions of partisanship which have sprung up from Speaker Boehner's invitation to the Israeli prime minister to address a joint session of Congress. AIPAC was not involved or aware of the discussions between representatives of the government of Israel and the Speaker of the House. However, we understand the intent that Speaker Boehner has declared -- Prime Minister Netanyahu adds an extremely relevant voice at this crucial time of instability and horror in the Middle East. That's precisely why we had invited him to address our AIPAC members at our 40th Annual Policy Conference in Washington March 1.
Stopping Iran's development of nuclear capacity has been on our priority list for nearly 20 years, and we are proud that AIPAC members have successfully communicated with members of Congress and successive presidential administrations to use all means available -- legislative, diplomatic and economic, before it's too late. No one would argue that time has grown much closer.
It is very unfortunate that the peripheral details of the Netanyahu invitation announcement has clouded and distracted from the focus on the critical negotiation deadline rapidly approaching. We supported the passage of the Kirk-Menendez bill which keeps the pressure on Iran by imposing further sanctions if the already pushed back deadline of June 30, 2015 is reached without agreement.
Because it is in America's national security interest to keep Iran from developing the capacity to produce a nuclear weapon, we have worked hand-in-hand for nearly 20 years with Congressional leadership of both parties and two presidential administrations for the passage of what have proved to be effective sanctions on Iran. Members of Congress from both parties plus the Bush administration and now the Obama administration all agree -- the sanctions have worked and have effectively brought Iran to the P5+1 negotiating table. However, for two years no agreement has been reached. Iran's nuclear development continues.
As do Iranian threats to our friend and ally Israel.
It is all these accomplishments that make current Capitol Hill perceptions and anonymous statements emanating from the Obama Administration so distressing and unwarranted. It is not in AIPAC's nature to stand by and let this negativity and potential damage to the bipartisan support for Israel, continue unaddressed.
We are calling upon the Speaker of the House, Majority Leader of the Senate and President Obama to put a stop to this perception by finding a mutually agreeable accommodation. This is what the American people deserve, this is what the P5+1 negotiators deserve, and this is what the Government of Israel deserves.
It will never be acceptable to AIPAC if our relationship of support for Israel becomes cheapened and denigrated by partisanship or political point scoring. Now is the best time to end that perception by finding common ground. We stand ready to support this effort.
Note: Ken Toltz began his professional career at AIPAC in Washington, D.C. from 1979 - 1982.