Netanyahu's Fourth Address to Congress: A Historic Invitation Amidst Crisis

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been invited to address a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress for the fourth time. The invitation, signed by bipartisan leaders, highlights U.S. support amid the Israel-Gaza conflict. This historic address comes during heightened partisan divides and ongoing tensions between Netanyahu and President Biden.

Reuters | Updated: 01-06-2024 02:09 IST | Created: 01-06-2024 02:09 IST
Netanyahu's Fourth Address to Congress: A Historic Invitation Amidst Crisis

The leaders of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on Friday invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint meeting of Congress, a show of support amid partisan divides over Israel's campaign in Gaza. The letter inviting Netanyahu was signed by Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries.

"To build on our enduring relationship and to highlight America's solidarity with Israel, we invite you to share the Israeli government's vision for defending democracy, combating terror, and establishing a just and lasting peace in the region," the letter said. It did not propose a date for the speech.

Johnson had said the Israeli leader would soon address a joint meeting of Congress, amid heightened tensions with President Joe Biden's administration over Netanyahu's handling of the war in Gaza. The Republican speaker had said he would invite Netanyahu whether or not congressional Democratic leaders signed onto the letter.

Johnson was one of many Republicans who had criticized Biden for saying he would withhold a shipment of bombs to Israel if it mounted a large-scale invasion of Rafah, a southern Gaza city were many thousands of Palestinians had fled during the war. Billions of dollars in U.S.-made weaponry remains in the pipeline for shipment to Israel.

PASSING CHURCHILL Biden's support for Israel in its war against Hamas has emerged as a political liability for the president, particularly among young Democrats on the left, as he runs for re-election this year. It fueled a wave of "uncommitted" protest votes in presidential primaries and has driven pro-Palestinian protests at universities.

The Hamas attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7 killed around 1,200 people, according to Israeli tallies. Palestinian health authorities estimate more than 36,280 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel attacked the enclave. Addresses to joint meetings of Congress by foreign leaders are a rare honor generally reserved for the closest U.S. allies or major world figures. Netanyahu has already given three such addresses, most recently in 2015.

This speech would make Netanyahu the first foreign leader to address joint meetings of Congress four times. He is currently tied at three with Britain's wartime prime minister, Winston Churchill. The invitation to address Congress was announced the same day Biden said Israel had proposed a Gaza ceasefire in exchange for the release of hostages, and called on Hamas to agree to the new offer, saying it was the best way to end the conflict.

Netanyahu has long aligned himself with U.S. Republicans. In March he addressed Republican senators via a video link, nearly a week after Schumer gave a Senate speech branding the prime minister an obstacle to peace and urging new elections in Israel. The formal invitation on Friday was first reported by The Hill news website.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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