Speaker Mike Johnson Invites Benjamin Netanyahu to Speak to Congress

U.S. Speaker of the Home Mike Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, speaks with reporters as he returns to his workplace on the U.S. Capitol Constructing on Feb. 5. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Photos by way of JTA.org)

Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON  — U.S. Home of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to talk to a joint session of Congress, providing a diplomatic lifeline for the Israeli chief who’s going through the prospect of a world arrest warrant and who’s unpopular at dwelling and overseas.

The invitation delivered Thursday at an Israel Independence Day occasion hosted by the Israeli embassy in Washington got here simply days after the Worldwide Felony Courtroom prosecutor stated he was searching for Netanyahu’s arrest for alleged crimes associated to Israel’s battle with Hamas in Gaza.

“We are going to quickly be internet hosting Prime Minister Netanyahu at a joint session of Congress,” stated Johnson, a Louisiana Republican who has been extremely essential of how President Joe Biden has dealt with the U.S. relationship with Israel in latest months.

Johnson apparently received a final minute nod from the Senate Democratic majority chief, Chuck Schumer of New York, who’s Jewish and shocked Israel in a latest speech calling for brand spanking new Israeli elections due to what he depicted as Netanyahu’s failures earlier than and since Oct. 7, when Hamas launched the present battle. Schumer had earlier indicated he would be part of Johnson in issuing the invitation, however negotiations had been reportedly nonetheless underway on Thursday. Johnson advised Israel’s government-run Kan broadcaster earlier than his speech that he had secured Schumer’s settlement. He didn’t give a date.

The speech is more likely to roil Washington, which is already on edge in a contentious presidential election yr, one rocked by pro-Palestinian protests on campuses and elsewhere nationwide. In 2015, when Netanyahu delivered a controversial speech to Congress opposing then-President Barack Obama’s Iran insurance policies, he confronted boycotts by a large minority of Democrats.

This yr, in Netanyahu’s fourth speech to the physique of his profession, he’ll face a Democratic caucus that features progressives who’ve lauded the ICC prosecutor for searching for his arrest, alongside Democrats who’ve grown more and more disillusioned with how Netanyahu’s authorities has dealt with the battle towards Hamas.

Biden, who initially wholeheartedly backed Israel, has in latest weeks suspended the supply of some main bombs out of considerations over Israel’s prosecution of the battle, though in latest days among the tensions seem to have been resolved. Johnson has led criticism of Biden for what Republicans are depicting as an abandonment of Israel.

Democrats and Republicans have intensified their campaigns for Jewish and pro-Israel votes, to the purpose the place occasion communications virtually every day lacerate each other as borderline antisemitic.

Netanyahu has misplaced a lot of the worldwide goodwill accorded to Israel after Hamas massacred some 1,200 Israelis on Oct. 7. Israel launched counterstrikes, and since then greater than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed, in keeping with the Hamas-run Gaza well being ministry, which doesn’t distinguish between combatants and civilians. Israel estimates that greater than a 3rd of casualties are combatants. Greater than 270 Israeli troopers have been killed within the invasion.

Netanyahu is beneath political siege in Israel the place tens of hundreds of protesters, together with some households of roughly 130 hostages nonetheless held in Gaza have referred to as for brand spanking new elections. Netanyahu’s ballot numbers have dropped precipitously because the battle’s launch. On Thursday, he was heading off damaging claims by the military that he was warned a number of instances that Hamas and different enemies had been planning an onslaught. He has roundly denied the experiences.

Additionally talking on the occasion Thursday night time was California Rep. Pete Aguilar, the fourth ranked Democrat within the Home. “The security and safety of Israel is paramount to each Democrats and Republicans,” he stated.

Michael Herzog, the Israeli ambassador, stated the U.S. drive that led a coalition of allies final month in repelling an Iranian missile and rocket assault on Israel was the true emblem of the connection between the international locations.

“When our two nations are united and collectively, nothing can cease us and nothing can beat us,” he stated to applause inside the huge Nationwide Constructing Museum predominant corridor.

The embassy saved the placement of the occasion beneath wraps till the previous day. A couple of dozen pro-Palestinian protesters shouted slogans exterior the occasion and some lay on the bottom stained with pretend blood.

References to Oct. 7 and its horrors permeated the occasion. There have been 128 empty chairs on a platform within the heart of the corridor, symbolizing hostages nonetheless held in Gaza.

Attendees walked by large images of residents and troopers within the communities devastated by the Hamas assault and ate meals created from recipes by individuals from the villages bordering Gaza.