Close study of major changes in official American policies and attitudes reveals a principle that has been informally given the name of "Nixon-Goes-to-China" — a reference to President Richard Nixon's historic 1971 diplomatic opening to a country that U.S. officialdom had always withheld recognition from.
During Nixon's early prominence, he was a scourge of what he and other Cold Warriors scorned as "Red China," and it was only from that well-established position that he could so dramatically change positions and tilt for a change in policy.
So we come to the current controversy over a decision by the Republican leader of the House of Representatives to issue an invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and to do so not only without consulting Democratic President Barack Obama but to make sure the president knew nothing of the invitation in advance.
Who better to come to grips with the matter than our own 9th District congressman, Steve Cohen, who, in a public statement, identifies himself as both "a supporter of the state of Israel and a Jewish American." His views on the Netanyahu matter derive from an undeniable sincerity.
Cohen has declared that he will not attend Netanyahu's speech before Congress. He noted the insult to Obama and the breach of precedent involved in the invitation by Boehner. He pointed out that the Israeli prime minister is a candidate in forthcoming elections in his own country, and that Netanyahu has improperly used video footage of previous speeches before Congress in his electoral campaigns, making the United States government an involuntary campaign supporter by proxy.
Cohen then noted the uses to which the Netanyahu visit will likely be put: "The Speaker's invitation to Prime Minister Netanyahu is political gamesmanship and it is a very dangerous game. The prime minister's use of the U.S. House chamber as a stage to argue against the comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear program, which is currently being negotiated among Iran and the P5+1 — the United States, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom and Germany, is reckless.
"While Americans and members of Congress may disagree on anything, even foreign policy, providing a forum of such immense prestige and power to the leader of another country who is opposing our nation's foreign policy is beyond the pale. It endangers the negotiations, insults the good faith of the other nations involved in the negotiations, and emboldens Iran who may well view this schism in our government as an opportunity for advantage. While we can disagree with our president, we as a nation should be as one on our foreign policy and any disagreements should be presented in a respectful, appropriate and time-honored manner."
Cohen concludes: "[M]y support of Israel has not wavered but I believe that this speech at this time and brought forth in this manner is dangerous to Israel as well as inappropriate. Nothing should come between our two nations. The actions of the Speaker and the Prime Minister have caused a breach between Democrats in Congress and Israel as well as the administrations of the United States and Israel. My lack of attendance does not mean I will not be aware of the content of the speech nor does it mean I won't follow the commentary both pro and con, but I will not be part of the spectacle."
Agree or disagree as you will, this is well and powerfully said.