Netanyahu to Address Congress on July 24 Amidst Political Divisions

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to address a joint session of Congress on July 24, showcasing continued support for the ally amidst ongoing political divisions regarding Israel’s military actions against Hamas in Gaza. Congressional leaders extended a formal invitation to Netanyahu last week, further underlining America’s solidarity with Israel.

The political climate surrounding Netanyahu’s upcoming address to Congress is anticipated to be contentious, with potential protests both inside and outside the Capitol. The event will likely underscore the divisions within Congress, particularly among Democrats, regarding Netanyahu’s handling of the conflict with Hamas. Democratic lawmakers most critical of Netanyahu’s strategy are expected to be no-shows for the address. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent from Vermont, said: “Netanyahu is a war criminal. I certainly will not attend.”

Netanyahu’s visit to the Capitol also comes after the relationship between US President Joe Biden and the leader of the Jewish state had been frayed in recent months. Biden has privately and publicly criticized Netanyahu’s handling of the war and criticized the Israeli government for not letting more humanitarian aid into Gaza. Late last week, Biden announced a proposed agreement to end the fighting in Gaza, putting growing pressure on Netanyahu to accept the deal. Many Israelis have been urging him to embrace the terms, but his far-right allies have threatened to leave his coalition government if he does. Netanyahu called a permanent cease-fire in Gaza a “nonstarter” until long-standing conditions for ending the war are met, appearing to undermine the proposal that Biden described as an Israeli one.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, along with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries, signed the letter extending the invitation to Netanyahu. Johnson first suggested inviting the Israeli leader, saying it would be “a great honor of mine” to invite him. His move came soon after Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in the US, delivered a stinging rebuke of Netanyahu in a lengthy speech on the Senate floor. Schumer said in the speech that Netanyahu had “lost his way” amid the Israeli bombing campaign in Gaza. Even so, Schumer had said he would join in the invitation because “our relationship with Israel is ironclad and transcends any one prime minister or president.”

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