Former Baltimore Sun foreign correspondent Frederic B. Hill berated U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) for inviting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress about Iran’s nuclear weapons threat ahead of Israel’s March elections and while the House and Senate consider, against President Obama’s wishes, new economic sanctions on Tehran. Hill mistakenly claimed such a visit was unprecedented (“Netanyahu invitation unwise,” Jan. 28, 2015 print edition, January 27 online).
Hill, also identified as having conducted war game exercises for the State Department from 1986 to 2006, painted Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) a chief sponsor of sanctions legislation, as in thrall to pro-Israel donors. And Hill repeated the cliché that American and Israeli skeptics of an agreement that leaves Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s regime with thousands of centrifuges resemble Iranian “hardliners” who want no deal at all.
A CAMERA letter to the editor (January 30 print edition, January 31 online) rebutted several of Hill’s erroneous claims:
Columnist Frederic Hill (“Boehner’s ‘unwise’ move; It was foolish for the House speaker to ask Netanyahu to address Congress on Iran,” January 28) faults House Speaker John Boehner for inviting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress two weeks before Israeli elections. “Democratic nations usually do not interfere in another country’s vote,” Hill says.
In 1996, President Bill Clinton hosted Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, whom the administration was said to favor, at the White House two weeks before Peres lost to Netanyahu in Israeli balloting. British Prime Minister David Cameron lobbied senators on President Obama’s behalf against new Iran sanctions legislation earlier this month. Now, according to several reports, Jeremy Bird, a top official in President Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns, is heading to Israel to help organize grassroots opposition to Netanyahu.
Hill impugns Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), a chief sponsor of new sanctions, as a “posturing politician … who has accepted more than half a million in campaign contributions from pro-Israel lobbying groups in the U.S. between 2008 and 2014 ….” Could it be that Kirk, a former State Department official and 24-year U.S. Navy Reserve intelligence officer who’s served in Congress since 2001, may have an honest difference of opinion with Hill? Certainly, some senators opposing Kirk’s legislation, not to mention the president himself, also have received contributions from pro-Israel sources.
Boehner’s invitation and Netanyahu’s acceptance may or may not be diplomatically wise. But contrary to Hill, there’s no congressional “mirror image” of Iranian hard-liners who want to kill negotiations. There are many members of Congress who believe Iran when it says the American “Great Satan” must be driven from the Middle East and the Israeli “Little Satan” destroyed. Along with Israelis, they want to make sure the ayatollahs can’t deploy nuclear weapons, especially not soon and by surprise.
(Note: The Sun’s headline over CAMERA’s letter termed Boehner’s invitation “neither unprecedented nor unwise.” CAMERA did not argue the diplomatic wisdom or lack of it regarding the speech invitation and acceptance, but rather highlighted some of Hill’s mistaken assertions.)