By Ray Fleming

THE constitutional separation of powers of the executive and the legislature in the United States has some advantages but can lead to curious anomalies.

One of these was to be observed on Tuesday when the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, was invited to address a joint meeting of both Houses of Congress. Such invitations are quite rare and normally given to leaders of major countries whose policies are broadly in line with those of the United States. But Mr Netanyahu is not quite in that category. To begin with, there are several extant United Nations resolutions which criticise Israel's general and specific policies. There are also judgements by international law bodies stating that Israel policies on the misuse of occupied land are illegal.

The most recent UN inquiry into Israel's invasion of Gaza two years ago found that the Israeli army deliberately targetted Palestinian civilians. Israel's refusal to accept resolutions and inquiries of this kind does not alter the fact that they exist and cannot be ignored.

Even stranger was Mr Netanyahu's calculated decision to use the occasion to disagree with proposals the President of the United States had outlined to him only a couple of days earlier.

And stranger yet was the sight of members of Congress jumping up and down to give Mr Netanyahu regular standing ovations as he criticised President Obama's policies.