The controversy over an upcoming speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the US Congress gets bigger by the day.

On Tuesday, one of the longest-serving senators in the US Congress, Patrick Leahy, announced he won’t be there, joining Vice President Joe Biden and other Democratic lawmakers who won't attend.

Netanyahu is scheduled to address Congress on March 3, but will not meet with President Barack Obama during his trip to Washington.

Many people are upset the Israeli leader accepted the invitation directly from Republican House Speaker John Boehner without consulting the White House first, an unusual break with protocol for a head of state.

As DC Dispatches has reported, Netanyahu is in a tough election battle and needs to show he has US support, while Republicans in Congress need him to badmouth a White House nuclear deal with Iran.

The prime minister made clear in a Tweet on Tuesday that’s exactly what he intends to do.

Now Senator Leahy, a 41-year veteran of Washington politics, says he won’t be there, issuing a terse statement calling the speech “a tawdry and high-handed stunt that has embarrassed not only Israel, but the Congress itself.”

Other high-profile Democrats who will not be attending include Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, a civil rights icon who marched with Martin Luther King Jr., and North Carolina Congressman G.K. Butterfield, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, which represents 46 African-American elected officials.

Lewis would not go on the record for DC Dispatches, but in an Associated Press report last week, Lewis called the speech “an affront to the president”.

Source: Al Jazeera