Netanyahu, Congress Set a Date

Democrats wrestle with potential boycott
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 6, 2024 7:15 PM CDT
Netanyahu to Address Congress Next Month
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a Cabinet meeting at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem on Wednesday.   (Gil Cohen-Magen/Pool Photo via AP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to address a joint meeting of Congress on July 24, the AP reports—an appearance that Democratic leaders already are anticipating will be boycotted by some of their members. Congressional leaders formally invited Netanyahu last week without settling on a date. The letter was signed by Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, and House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries. The invitation was extended to "highlight America's solidarity with Israel," they said.

The visit also could highlight the growing election-year divisions among Democrats over Netanyahu's management of the war against Hamas. When he spoke to Congress in 2015, 58 Democratic lawmakers did not attend, and many tried to head off the invitation this time, per Axios. Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern said he's not going, and the No. 2 Democrat in the other chamber, Sen. Dick Durbin, said he wouldn't have sent the invitation because the prime minister hasn't endorsed a two-state solution in the Middle East, per the Hill. Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders said: "Netanyahu is a war criminal. I certainly will not attend."

Johnson first suggested the invitation, and some Democrats called it an attempt to divide their party. Several Progressive Caucus members have opposed the speech since the possibility was first brought up in March, per Axios. One caucus member cautioned colleagues. "Boycotting means smiling GOP staff faces will take our seats," said Rep. Mark Pocan. "I think we need to see how to best highlight the real Netanyahu" in a way other than boycotting, he added. (More Congress stories.)

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