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State Delegation Marked Absent, Present at Netanyahu Speech

March 9, 2015
In The News

By Eric Berger, Jewish Exponent

U.S. Reps. Brendan Boyle and Chakah Fattah, both Democrats, have each traveled in official capacities to Israel in recent years, but only Boyle decided to attend Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netan­yahu’s March 3 speech before Congress.
 
Boyle, who represents the 13th District and Rep. Ryan Costello, a Republican who represents the 6th District, co-authored an opinion piece in Tuesday’s Philadelphia Inquirer explaining why they decided to attend the speech in which Netanyahu argued against a proposed nuclear deal with Iran.
 
“Shortly after today, the media firestorm over the speech will fade. But the consequences of what we do about a nuclear Iran will last far longer,” the lawmakers wrote. “The story, as we see it, is not about who will or will not attend today’s speech or whether the invitation was or was not appropriate.”
 
Boyle, a first-term congressman, traveled to Israel in 2013 as part of a trip sponsored by the Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition and Jewish Federation of Greater Phila­delphia.
 
Fattah, who represents the 3rd District, also traveled to Israel in 2013 on a separate trip and is slated to visit the Jewish state again next week to attend a brain technology conference. 
 
He decided not to attend Netanyahu’s speech because, he said in a statement, “I would never participate in any activity to disparage the President of the United States, therefore I will not be present.”
 
“The issue of a nuclear Iran continues to be critically important,” added Fattah, who was the only legislator from the Philadelphia area to publicly declare that he would not attend. 
 
“In 2005, I traveled to Vienna to meet with the International Atomic Energy Agency and raise alarms about the Iran nuclear weapons program and have since been unwavering in my opposition to it.”
 
All the Republican representatives from the area attended the speech, as did the state’s two senators, Bob Casey, a Democrat, and Pat Toomey, a Republican. 
 
Casey, a Democrat, released a statement saying, “Israel is a friend and indispensable partner in the Middle East, and the bond between our two countries has been and always will be unbreakable. Israel’s security and that of the United States are inextricably linked.”
 
Rep. Bob Brady, a Democrat from the 1st District, did not attend the speech, but his office said it was not because he was boycotting it.
 
“He rarely attends joint sessions” of Congress “or State of the Union addresses,” said his chief of staff, Stanley White.  “He went to Philly last night, drove back up today. He didn’t attend the speech but it was not lack of attendance for protest reasons.”
 
On Iran, White said of Brady’s position, “He shares concerns about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. He’s hopeful that the president and the powers can negotiate a good deal.
 
“He’s concerned that the deal will not be workable but he’s hopeful.”