Netanyahu to address Congress on July 24

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address a joint meeting of Congress on July 24, top Republicans announced Thursday night.

The top four Congressional leaders officially invited Netanyahu to speak to lawmakers on Friday, capping off weeks of speculation regarding whether or not the prime minister would be extended the opportunity to visit the Capitol amid Israel’s war against Hamas. Netanyahu accepted the invitation on Saturday.

“The bipartisan, bicameral meeting symbolizes the U.S. and Israel’s enduring relationship and will offer Prime Minister Netanyahu the opportunity to share the Israeli government’s vision for defending their democracy, combatting terror, and establishing just and lasting peace in the region,” Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement Thursday night.

The announcement of a date for the address excluded the names of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), both of whom signed the letter inviting Netanyahu to address Congress last week.

The notable omissions come as progressive Democrats in both chambers have expressed sharp disapproval of Netanyahu’s speech, with some already vowing to skip the event. Schumer also voiced his opposition to Netanyahu in a March floor speech, calling for new elections in Israel and declaring that the longtime conservative leader had “lost his way.”

The Senate leader — who is the highest-ranking Jewish official in American history — issued a statement Thursday evening that emphasized his support for the U.S.-Israel relationship but did not address his absence from the date announcement.

“I have clear and profound disagreements with the Prime Minister, which I have voiced both privately and publicly and will continue to do so. But because America’s relationship with Israel is ironclad and transcends one person or prime minister I joined the request for him to speak,” Schumer said.

Netanyahu’s address next month will mark the fourth time he has delivered a speech before a joint meeting of Congress, following visits to the U.S. in 2015, 2011 and 1996.

His address this year is sure to spark intense outrage among liberal Democrats, who have been up in arms over the mounting number of humanitarian deaths in the Gaza strip. Some of them are already saying they plan to boycott the speech.

“Benjamin Netanyahu is a war criminal. He should not be invited to address a joint meeting of Congress. I certainly will not attend,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said in a statement last week.

The topic of the Israel-Hamas war has been a contentious one in the Democratic caucus, where pro-Palestinian progressives have found themselves at odds with staunchly pro-Israel Democrats.

Recently, those divisions were on full display after the International Criminal Court (ICC) requested arrest warrants for Netanyahu, the Israeli defense minister and leaders of Hamas, alleging that they “bear criminal responsibility” for a list of war crimes. Pro-Israel Democrats slammed the ICC, accusing it of drawing a false equivalency between Israel and Hamas leaders, while pro-Palestinian liberals urged respect for the court’s decisions.

The U.S. does not recognize the ICC and does not consider Americans to be under its jurisdiction.

Johnson first proposed the idea of inviting Netanyahu to speak to Congress in March, shortly after Schumer called for new elections in Israel. The process for inviting Netanyahu, however, was delayed several weeks as Schumer held off on signing a letter extending the invitation to the Israeli leader.

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