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Politics

Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu Set to Address the US Congress on July 24

WASHINGTON (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to address a joint meeting of Congress on July 24, setting the stage for what is expected to be a contentious speech at a crucial moment for the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

Congressional leaders confirmed the date of the address late Thursday after formally inviting Netanyahu to come speak before lawmakers last week. It is the most recent show of wartime support for the longtime ally despite mounting political divisions over Israel’s military assault on Hamas in Gaza.

“The existential challenges we face, including the growing partnership between Iran, Russia, and China, threaten the security, peace, and prosperity of our countries and of free people around the world,” 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, said in the letter. “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, combatting terror, and establishing a just and lasting peace in the region.”

Netanyahu’s appearance before a growingly divided Congress is sure to be contentious and met with plenty of protests both inside the Capitol from lawmakers and outside by pro-Palestinian protesters. And it will put on stark display the growing election-year divisions among Democrats over the prime minister’s prosecution of the monthslong war against 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 as the relationship between President Joe Biden and the leader of the Jewish state has increasingly 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.

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 U.S., 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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