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43 Democrats to miss Netanyahu speech — but Kathy Castor won’t be one of them

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Thirty-eight Democratic House members and five senators intend on boycotting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, but Kathy Castor won’t be one of them.

A list of those Democratic representatives who won’t be attending the speech include some of their most progressive members, a list that at times the Hillsborough County-based congresswoman would be right at home with. But not this time.

“I have so much respect for my neighbors and the state of Israel, I’m willing to overlook the political machinations of Speaker Boehner and President Netanyahu, ” Castor said, though Netanyahu is actually Israel’s Prime Minister (their president is a little known name to Americans — Reuven Rivlin). “Unfortunately, President Netanyahu let politics get ahead of the best interests of the state of Israel; it’s caused some damage.”

Netanyahu is running for re-election in Israel in two weeks, the reason given why President Obama is not meeting with him as he visits Washington, D.C., to advocate for a strong U.S. stance toward Iran regarding its nuclear program. House Speaker John Boehner invited the Israeli leader to lay out his concerns in an address to Congress but did not notify President Obama of the invitation, angering Democrats.

“I don’t want it to be overstated,” Castor added. “The United States and Israel remain the closest of allies, and I don’t see much on the horizon that could damage that, even someone’s political ego.”

In a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on Monday morning, Netanyahu stressed that his address on Tuesday is not “intended to show any disrespect to President Obama or to the esteemed office that he holds,” adding he has “great respect for both.”

Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, drew a standing ovation at AIPAC today when she said, “The United States of America will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon, period.”

The only Democratic lawmaker from Florida who intends to boycott the speech is U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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