WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two senior U.S. Senate Democrats invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday to a closed-door meeting with Democratic senators during his upcoming visit to Washington, warning that making U.S.-Israeli relations a partisan political issue could have “lasting repercussions.”
Senators Richard Durbin and Dianne Feinstein extended the invitation “to maintain Israel’s dialogue with both political parties in Congress,” according to a letter to the Israeli leader obtained by Reuters.
Netanyahu has faced criticism at home and abroad for his plans to address Congress on Iran’s nuclear program on March 3, just two weeks before Israeli elections. He accepted the invitation from Republican leaders in the U.S. Congress, who consulted neither Democrats in Congress nor Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration.
“This unprecedented move threatens to undermine the important bipartisan approach towards Israel - which as long-standing supporters of Israel troubles us deeply,” the two senators wrote.
“It sacrifices deep and well-established cooperation on Israel for short-term partisan points - something that should never be done with Israeli security and which we fear could have lasting repercussions,” they said.
Durbin is the No. 2 Democrat in the U.S. Senate. Feinstein, who has been in the Senate since 1992, is the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee and a senior member of the Appropriations and Judiciary committees.
The letter was sent on Monday evening. Officials at the Israeli Embassy could not immediately be reached for comment.
Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Eric Walsh and Peter Cooney