Israel’s Netanyahu expected to address US Congress on July 24

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

Congressional leaders confirmed the date for the speech Thursday evening after formally inviting Netanyahu to speak to others last week. This is the most recent exhibition of wartime support for the longtime ally despite growing political divisions over Israel’s military attack 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 free people around the world,” the president said of the House, Mike Johnson, Republican and majority in the Senate. 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 underscore America’s solidarity with Israel, we invite you to share the Israeli government’s vision for defending democracy, combating terrorism, and establishing a just and lasting peace in the region. »

Netanyahu’s appearance before an increasingly divided Congress is sure to be controversial and spark widespread protests, both inside the Capitol and outside, from pro-Palestinian demonstrators. And it will highlight growing divisions within Democrats in the election year over the prime minister’s continuation of the months-long war against Hamas.

Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in the United States – who gave a speech scathing reprimand of Netanyahu in March – said in a separate statement Thursday evening that he had “clear and deep disagreements” with the Israeli leader, but joined in his request to speak “because the relationship of the America with Israel is ironclad and transcends a single person or prime minister. ” “

Other Democrats seen as more critical of Netanyahu’s strategy are expected not to appear at the speech. Sen. Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, said: “Netanyahu is a war criminal. I will definitely not participate.

Netanyahu’s visit to the Capitol also comes as relations between President Joe Biden and the head of the Jewish state have become increasingly strained in recent months. Biden has privately and publicly criticized Netanyahu’s handling of the war and criticized the Israeli government for not allowing more humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Late last week, Biden announced a proposed agreement end the fighting in Gaza, putting increasing pressure on Netanyahu to accept the deal. Many Israelis have urged him to accept these terms, but his far-right allies have threatened to leave his coalition government if he does so.

That could expose Netanyahu to new elections, scrutiny over security failures that led to the war and, if he loses the premiership, prosecution for long-standing corruption.

The first phase of the deal outlined by Biden would last six weeks and include a “total and complete ceasefire”, a withdrawal of Israeli forces from all densely populated areas of Gaza and the release of a number of hostages, including women. Elderly and wounded people, in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

The second phase would include the release of all remaining hostages, including male soldiers, and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza. The third phase calls for the start of major reconstruction of Gaza, which faces decades of rebuilding after the ravages of war.

Netanyahu has repeatedly called a permanent ceasefire in Gaza a “non-starter” until long-standing conditions are met. the war are satisfied, appearing to undermine the proposal that Biden described as Israeli.

A number of Democratic parties that have supported Israel since the start of the war said their presence at Netanyahu’s speech would depend on his decision to accept the pending peace deal.

Johnson first suggested inviting the Israeli leader, saying it would be “a great honor for me” to invite him. In Thursday’s press release, Johnson said Netanyahu responded to the invitation in kind.

“I am deeply moved to have the privilege of representing Israel before both houses of Congress and presenting the truth about our just war against those who seek to destroy us to the representatives of the American people and the entire world,” Netanyahu said, according to the exit.

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