Netanyahu Invited to Address U.S. Congress Amid Growing Divisions Over Gaza Conflict

Jimmy Williams

Congressional leaders have invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to deliver an address at the Capitol, signaling a show of wartime support for Israel despite rising political divisions over its military actions in Gaza.

The invitation, extended by House Speaker Mike Johnson, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, and House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries, aims to “highlight America’s solidarity with Israel.” A date for the speech has yet to be set.

“We invite you to share the Israeli government’s vision for defending democracy, combatting terror, and establishing a just and lasting peace in the region,” the leaders wrote in their invitation.

This planned speech is likely to underscore the election-year divisions within the U.S., as a growing number of Democrats have criticized Netanyahu’s right-wing policies, while Republicans have shown strong support. Johnson initially proposed the invitation, calling it a “great honor,” soon after Schumer publicly criticized Netanyahu, accusing him of having “lost his way” amidst the bombing campaign in Gaza. Despite his criticisms, Schumer supports the invitation, emphasizing the “ironclad” U.S.-Israel relationship that transcends any single leader.

The ongoing Israel-Hamas war, sparked by Hamas’s surprise attack on October 7, has led to significant global concerns over Israel’s military tactics and the high civilian death toll. As Israel advances into Rafah, Gaza, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has accused Netanyahu and his defense minister, along with three Hamas leaders, of war crimes. While largely symbolic, this accusation adds to Netanyahu’s growing international isolation.

President Joe Biden, who supports Israel’s right to defend itself, has criticized the ICC’s case against Netanyahu but has also expressed concerns over Israel’s war strategy, advocating for humanitarian aid assurances. Biden has encouraged a three-phase deal proposed by Israel to Hamas, aimed at releasing the remaining hostages in Gaza and potentially ending the conflict. He described this as a “road map to an enduring ceasefire and the release of all hostages.”

It remains uncertain whether Biden and Netanyahu will meet in Washington during this period. Meanwhile, Spain, Norway, and Ireland have recently recognized a Palestinian state, with Slovenia’s government also endorsing a motion for recognition, actions that Israel has condemned.

The planned address by Netanyahu is set against a backdrop of complex and evolving international relations, highlighting the deep and sometimes contentious bond between the U.S. and Israel.

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