Republicans mull Netanyahu Congress invite amid Israel backlash in US

Republicans mull Netanyahu Congress invite amid Israel backlash in US
The Republicans are considering inviting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Congress, as Democrats turn on the Israeli government.
3 min read
21 March, 2024
Netanyahu has been under attack for his handling of the war on Gaza [Getty]

Republican politicians are considering an invite for embattled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak at Congress, amid growing rebellion against Israel in the governing Democratic Party, according to reports.

Netanyahu will hold a virtual talk for a Republic Senate lunch on Wednesday, as Israel faces growing resistance in the US among political circles and the public regarding its war on Gaza.

Extending an invite to the Israeli PM was discussed recently at a closed-door meeting at the Republican Party conference with some cross-party agreement on the idea, Axios reported.

"It was suggested by several folks," House Speaker and Republican Mike Johnson told the outlet.

Another Republican representative, John Duarte, also confirmed the talks and said there is "strong support to show respect for Israel's sovereignty".

Axios reported that some pro-Israel Democrats are also behind the idea, despite growing opposition to Netanyahu in the party.

Netanyahu last spoke to Congress in 2015 in a talk that was boycotted by some Senators.

A diplomatic spat between the two countries has ensued after the leader of the US Senate, Chuck Schumer, called for new elections in Israel and slammed Benjamin Netanyahu.

"As a democracy, Israel has the right to choose its own leaders, and we should let the chips fall where they may. But the important thing is that Israelis are given a choice," said Schumer.

"There needs to be a fresh debate about the future of Israel after October 7."

He also named Netanyahu as one of the four big obstacles to peace between Israelis and Palestinians, sparking a backlash in Israel and among Republicans at home.

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On Tuesday, Schumer, known as a pro-Israel Democrat, met American-Jewish organisations where he defended his call for new elections in Israel.

"There was a fundamental question of whether he would backpedal or defend himself, and he very clearly defended himself," one of the Jewish-American delegates told The Times of Israel.

There has been growing anger in the US at Israel's conduct in the Gaza war, where at least 32,000 Palestinians have been killed, the vast majority civilians and around a third children.

US President Joe Biden, who has strongly supported Israel throughout the war on Gaza, but has recently criticised its conduct saying it was "hurting Israel more than it was helping Israel".

Netanyahu Congress Getty
Netanyahu addressed Congress in 2015 in a talk boycotted by some US politicians [Getty]

Biden has also repeatedly warned Netanyahu against an offensive on Rafah without contingency plans for the border city's population, which included hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced from elsewhere in the enclave.

Dozens of former US officials wrote an open letter to Biden urging him to take a tougher stance against Israel and advising him to threaten "restrictions on provision of (US) assistance (to Israel) consistent with U.S. law and policy" if it continues to deny Palestinians basic civil rights.

The group also warned of violent Israeli settler attacks in the occupied West Bank and said that while action against Hamas was "necessary and justified" Israeli operations in Gaza "have been marked by repeated violations" and "civilian killings of this nature and magnitude cannot be justified".

Israel's war on Gaza has killed 31,988 Palestinians and injured 74,188 since 7 October, with thousands still missing under the rubble.