WASHINGTON — In a sometimes heated meeting with Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., several House Democrats expressed anger Wednesday over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s acceptance of a Republican invitation to address Congress next month.

Some of the seven lawmakers – all of whom are Jewish and strong supporters of Israel – urged the prime minister to postpone the speech or hold it somewhere other than Congress, participants said. They told Ambassador Ron Dermer that Netanyahu was unwise to accept a GOP invitation that bypassed President Obama, and to schedule the speech only two weeks before Netanyahu seeks another term in Israel’s elections.

The meeting’s purpose was “to try to defuse the optics” of the planned speech to Congress, and to return to substantive issues involving the two nations, said Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., who hosted the gathering in his House office. Some attendees suggested a different time or venue for a Netanyahu speech, Israel told reporters, but “we have a while to go before we have to address whether or not he’s coming.”

Netanyahu’s March 3 speech would focus largely on Iran – and its nuclear program – amid delicate negotiations involving the United States, other Western powers and Tehran. Netanyahu’s acceptance of House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation has infuriated the White House and many congressional Democrats.

Rep. Israel said the problem began when Boehner “decided that Israel would be a political football and he’d spike it in the end zone.”

Dermer asked for the Wednesday meeting in hopes of defusing some of the tension, lawmakers said. Several Jewish House Democrats had met last week during the party’s retreat in Philadelphia to discuss what to do about the speech.

“I organized the meeting with Ambassador Dermer, and I invited key congressional Democratic supporters of Israel to attend,” Israel said in a statement. “There were a wide range of views that were discussed, but one thing we all agreed on emphatically is that Israel should never be used as a political football.”

Other participants were Reps. Sander Levin of Michigan, Jerrold Nadler and Nita Lowey of New York, Ted Deutch of Florida, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, who also heads the Democratic National Committee. Some Democratic lawmakers say they’ve not decided whether they would attend Netanyahu’s March 3 speech in the House chamber. Numerous top Democrats, however, dismiss the idea of a large-scale boycott.