Dear House and Senate Representatives:
Please consider vocally supporting the Congressional Black Caucus and President Obama by publicly committing to not attending Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's anticipated March 3, 2015, speech to Capitol Hill lawmakers. In opposing Netanyahu's planned visit, you would be aligning yourself with a majority of Israelis, according to a weekend poll by the Times of Israel.
Polls aside, we have a moral imperative to seek peace with a country of 75-million people, 60% of whom are under 30 and hold the greatest promise for change. To continue a brutal policy of sanctions and isolation would only serve to strengthen the hand of the most militant anti-US factions within the Iranian government, particularly now that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani wants to negotiate on the nuclear issue, and the US hopes Iran will join a coalition to cut off the flow of oil money to the Islamic State or ISIS.
In a disturbing, yet not surprising response, conservative pro-Israeli organizations in this country are planning a shaming campaign to ostracize lawmakers who vow not to attend Netanyahyu's speech. Politico reports these organizations will be "taking attendance" during Netanyahu's exhortation to scuttle President Obama's nuclear deal. Those who plan to skip the speech include senior Senator Patrick Leahy, Vice President Joe Biden, Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, a civil rights leader who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, and North Carolina's Congressman G.K. Butterfield, leader of the Congressional Black Caucus of 46 African American lawmakers.
To refrain from publicly supporting the President because of extortionist election threats would be to empower those who make those threats and to ensure shaming becomes the norm when senators and congress members contemplate acting independently in the name of peace and reconciliation.
A possible high road would be to co-lead a congressional delegation to Iran to advance the President's mission of bolstering dialogue while committing Iran to reducing its nuclear program by 70%. Perhaps former Congressman Jim Slattery (D-Kansas), who last December was the first US congressional representative to visit Iran since 1979, could facilitate such a groundbreaking visit.
Sometimes decisions are thrust upon us, putting us squarely at the crossroads of war or peace, of polarization or cooperation. This is one of those crucial moments -- when your direction can make all the difference.
Thank you for time and consideration --- and most importantly for your public service.