Netanyahu Invited to Address Both Houses of Congress in July

(Bloomberg) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accepted an invitation to address a joint meeting of the US House and Senate on July 24, House Speaker Mike Johnson’s office announced.

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Netanyahu will be given a chance “to share the Israeli government’s vision for defending their democracy, combating terror, and establishing just and lasting peace in the region,” Johnson and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, both Republicans, said in a statement Thursday night.

The invitation was signed by Johnson and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, as well as McConnell and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries.

The Israeli Embassy in Washington didn’t respond to a query on whether the invitation had been accepted.

Netanyahu faces intense criticism over the civilian death toll in the war in Gaza, which has caused divisions among US lawmakers and led to public disagreements with President Joe Biden.

Earlier: Biden Bid to End Gaza War Falters as Israel, Hamas Push Back

Even as fellow Democrats have intensified their demands for a cease-fire and an end to the conflict, the US president has remained steadfast in his support of Israel since last October’s deadly assault by Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the US and European Union. Both Israel and Hamas have balked at Biden’s latest peace effort.

In an interview with Time magazine published this week, Biden hinted that Netanyahu might be dragging out the war in order to cling to power. The president later told reporters that he didn’t think that was the case.

Some lawmakers have said they would boycott the address, including former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, and Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats.

In a post on X, Sanders accused Netanyahu of “creating the worst humanitarian disaster in modern history. Starvation. Destruction. Death.”

“We should not honor him with an invitation to address the United States Congress,” Sanders said.

Earlier: Schumer Urges Netanyahu Exit as Democrats’ Gaza Worries Grow

Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in the US, has previously called for Netanyahu to be replaced in an Israeli election.

In a statement, he noted his many disagreements with Netanyahu, “but because America’s relationship with Israel is ironclad and transcends one person or prime minister I joined the request for him to speak.”

This would be the prime minister’s fourth speech to a joint meeting of Congress, making him the first foreign leader to do so that many times. According to the US House website, Winston Churchill was the only other foreign leader to address the House and Senate three times.

In 2015, Netanyahu used one of those speeches to denounce the Iran nuclear accord, angering the Obama administration.

(Updates with Sanders quote in ninth paragraph. Previous versions corrected Sanders’ party affiliation and that Democrats in both chambers plan not to attend.)

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