Obnoxious Boston Fan

Patriots Owner Robert Kraft Attends Netanyahu's Speech to Congress

Robert Kraft was in attendance Tuesday during Benjamin Netanyahu's address to Congress. Seated at left in the front row is author Elie Wiesel. CSPAN

At least one member of the Massachusetts delegation was in attendance when Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft was seated in the House gallery as Netanyahu, who once studied at MIT, addressed a packed chamber. Kraft sat in the second row, behind Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel.

Kraft was there to listen to the Israeli prime minister offer his passionate plea for a stronger terms when it comes to negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran. It seems that keeping Darrelle Revis in the Patriots' fold isn't the only major item on his agenda.

Netanyahu's speech was the subject of much political criticism because of the way it came about. He was invited directly by GOP House Speaker John Boehner [R, Ohio] over the objection of the White House. Neither President Obama, Vice President Biden, nor Secretary of State John Kerry were in attendance. About 50 members of the Democratic House caucus, and eight Democratic senators, were not in attendance. Among them was Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren.

Both the administration and Netanyahu walked back some of the partisan framework of this speech this week, and the prime minister began by praising the president for his public and not-so-public support of his country. But there was no doubt still a partisan scent surrounding the affair.

Kraft's pro-Israeli stance has been criticized in the past.

The mix of athletes, and other major sports figures, with politics is often a combustible one. Tim Thomas' decision not to go to the White House with his Bruins' teammates in early 2012 set off a firestorm of criticism and support. For some, especially those who were silent when Theo Epstein did the same thing in 2005 and '08, Thomas' snub became the reason for everything for every ill that has befallen the Bruins since - from the team not repeating as Stanley Cup champions, to the Tyler Seguin trade, to the snow that's buried Boston this winter.

The beneficent John W. Henry [who happens to pay me each month to write this mellifluous prose], usually keeps a low political profile but publicly supported Kerry in his bid against George W. Bush back in 2004.

Kraft has been a vocal and unapologetic supporter of the Jewish state and of many Jewish charities in the United States. He's also promoted Christian-Jewish understanding by endowing chairs in Jewish studies at Boston College and Holy Cross College, and a chair in Christian Studies at Brandeis University. Kraft's family charity also funded the Kraft Center for Jewish Living at Columbia and its athletic fields.

Kraft and his family has focused much of his philanthropy on Israel, starting the Israeli Football League and the Passport to Israel program.

The late Myra Kraft used to take Patriots players to Israel each offseason. Among them was former tight end Benjamin Watson. Tom Brady took target practice at an IDF base in 2006.

In 2014, Kraft sent a letter of condolence to the family of American Max Steinberg, a soldier killed in the Gaza Strip. Steinberg was a volunteer in the Israel Defense Forces who “worked to become an Israeli in every way,” according to a letter from Netanyahu. The 24-year old Californian died in a July 20 attack.

Kraft said that he noticed Steinberg wearing a Patriots cap in a photo and concluded his letter with: "We are all Patriots."

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