Israel's Netanyahu to address US Congress on July 24 amid Gaza war

Israel's Netanyahu to address US Congress on July 24 amid Gaza war
Some Democrat lawmakers said they will snub Benjamin Netanyahu's upcoming speech before congress late next month, as Israel's deadly war persists in Gaza.
3 min read
Netanyahu's right-wing cabinet persists in carrying out the war in Gaza, despite mounting international criticism [Getty/file photo]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address lawmakers in the US Congress on July 24, Republican party leaders announced Thursday.

The visit comes amid mounting pressure for the Israel - currently waging a deadly war in Gaza - and Hamas to agree to a permanent ceasefire as the country faces growing diplomatic isolation over the rising death toll in the enclave.

President Joe Biden last week presented what he called an Israeli three-phase plan that would end the war, free all hostages and lead to the reconstruction of the devastated Palestinian territory without Hamas in power.

But Netanyahu's office stressed that the war would continue until Israel's "goals are achieved," including "the destruction of Hamas", which has not given its response to the plan.

The four top party leaders in the US House and Senate from both sides asked Netanyahu last week to speak before a joint meeting of Congress in a letter voicing solidarity with Israel "in your struggle against terror, especially as Hamas continues to hold American and Israeli citizens captive."

Netanyahu's visit "symbolises the US and Israel's enduring relationship and will offer Netanyahu the opportunity to share the Israeli government's vision for defending their democracy, combating terror, and establishing just and lasting peace in the region," House Speaker Mike Johnson and top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell said in a statement.

The US is Israel's long-term ally, and has supported the country throughout its war in Gaza, chiefly by providing billions of dollars worth of weaponry. Despite this, Israel has been on the receiving end of sporadic criticisms over its actions in the enclave.

The visit comes after Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called in March for Israel to hold new elections in a rare example of strident criticism from a senior American official of the country's handling of the war in Gaza.

Live Story

In a statement Thursday evening, Schumer said he invited Netanyahu to speak despite "clear and profound disagreements because America's relationship with Israel is ironclad and transcends one person or prime minister."

The rebuke from Schumer, the highest-ranking elected Jewish American in history, came amid expressions of dismay from progressive Democrats who have condemned Netanyahu over his handling of the military response and vowed to snub the right-wing leader's speech.

Israel's military offensive in Gaza has killed at least 36,654 people, mostly women and children. Much of the territory has been flattened, while its residents struggle with food insecurity due to an insufficient amount of aid coming in. Israel's atrocities in the Strip have been described as a 'genocide'.

A Gaza hospital said Thursday at least 37 people had been killed in an Israeli strike on a UN-run school, triggering widespread global condemnation. 

US, Qatari and Egyptian mediators have resumed talks aimed at securing a truce and hostage-prisoner swap in the nearly eight-month war.

But the nation has faced a mounting diplomatic chill, with international court cases accusing it of war crimes and several European countries recognising a Palestinian state, notably Spain.

US media reported on Monday that Netanyahu had agreed to visit on June 13, but his office told Israeli media the date had "not been finalised" and would not be on that date because it interferes with a Jewish holiday.