Democrats wrestle with whether to attend Netanyahu's speech to Congress

WASHINGTON (AP) — The last time Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu When he spoke to the US Congress, nearly 60 Democrats were absent from his speech nine years ago and described it as a slap within the face of then-President Barack Obama throughout the negotiations a nuclear agreement with Iran.

Since Netanyahu is predicted Speech to US lawmakers on July 24 and his government now War with Hamas within the Gaza Stripthe variety of absences is prone to be much higher.

Democrats in Congress are wrestling with whether to attend the event, with many torn between their longstanding support for Israel and their despair at the way in which Israel is conducting its military operations in Gaza. Since the October 7 Hamas attack that sparked the war, greater than 37,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Hamas-controlled areas, in accordance with the Health Ministry. The ministry doesn’t distinguish between civilians and fighters in its figures.

While some Democrats say they’re coming out of respect for Israel, a bigger and growing faction wants nothing to do with it, creating an awfully charged atmosphere at what is generally a ceremonial, bipartisan show of support for an American ally.

“I wish he was a statesman and would do the right thing for Israel. We all love Israel,” said the previous Speaker of the House. Nancy Pelosi, Democrat from California, recently said on CNN about Netanyahu. “We have to help them and not let him stand in their way for so long.”

She added: “I think it will create even more discontent, such as we have already seen in our own ranks.”

Tensions between Netanyahu and Democratic President Joe Biden have leaked out into the general public eye, with Netanyahu last week accuses the Biden administration of withholding US weapons from Israel – a claim he made again Sunday to his cabinet. After the prime minister first made the allegation, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said: “We really don't know what he's talking about. We just don't know.”

The invitation from House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) to Netanyahu got here after consultation with the White House, in accordance with an individual conversant in the matter who was granted anonymity to debate the sensitive issue. No meeting between the leaders has been planned to date during Netanyahu's visit to Washington, the person said.

Netanyahu said in a press release that he was “very moved” by the invitation to talk to Congress and by the possibility to “present to the representatives of the American people and the entire world the truth about our just war against those who seek to destroy us.”

Republicans first raised the thought of ​​inviting Netanyahu in March after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish official within the United States, gave a speech within the Senate The document was harshly critical of the prime minister. Schumer, D-N.Y., called the Israeli president an “obstacle to peace” and called for brand spanking new elections in Israel, although he also condemned Hamas and criticized Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Republicans condemned the speech as an affront to Israel and its sovereignty. Johnson spoke of asking Netanyahu to come back to Washington, an invite that Schumer and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York ultimately approved, albeit reluctantly. Pelosi, who opposed it, the invitation to Netanyahu in 2015 from the time when she was chair of the Democratic Party, said it was a mistake for the congressional leadership to increase the deadline again this time.

Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who attended the 2015 speech as a member of the House of Representatives, said he saw no reason why Congress should “throw a political lifeline” to Netanyahu.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul said it could be “healthy” for members of each parties to attend. “I think many Americans, especially the younger generation, are hearing a one-sided narrative, and I think it's important that they hear the Israeli prime minister's perspective,” said McCaul, a Texas Republican.

Interviews with greater than a dozen Democrats showed the depth of discontent over the upcoming speech, which many see as a Republican ploy to divide their party. Some Democrats say they’re attending to precise their support for Israel, not Netanyahu.

New York Rep. Gregory Meeks, the rating Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said his position made him “obligated” to attend.

“This shouldn't have happened,” he added. “But I can't control it. And I have to do my job.”

Senator Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), chairman of the Sente's Foreign Affairs Committee, has announced his attendance. Cardin said he expects Netanyahu's speech to contain “a message that can strengthen support for Israel in this country,” but in addition lay the muse for peace within the region.

Other Democrats are waiting to see whether Netanyahu will still be prime minister by the point he’s scheduled to handle Congress.

There were open signs of discontent with the handling of the war by Netanyahu’s government, a coalition that included right-wing hardliners who reject any sort of settlement with Hamas.

Benny Gantz, a former military chief and centrist politician, withdrew from Netanyahu's war cabinet this month, citing frustration with the prime minister's conduct of the war. On Monday, Netanyahu dissolved the body. Meanwhile, a growing variety of critics and protesters in Israel are supporting a ceasefire proposal that will allow the return of hostages kidnapped by Hamas.

Rep. Seth Magaziner, D-R-I., said he stands with those “who hope he is not prime minister at the end of July. I think he has been bad for Israel, bad for the Palestinians, bad for America.” But he added that he believes it’s his duty to be present when a head of state speaks before Congress, “even if it is someone I am concerned about and disagree with.”

Democratic Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia attended the 2015 speech and called it “one of the most painful hours” he has spent in Congress. He plans a boycott if Netanyahu doesn’t “commit to a ceasefire.”

A big portion of the Congressional Progressive Caucus — lawmakers who’ve been amongst essentially the most critical of Israel's handling of the war — are expected to remain away. Among them is Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the caucus chair, who told the Associated Press that inviting Netanyahu was a “bad idea.”

“We should put pressure on him by denying him offensive military support to ensure that he adheres to the agreement that the president has presented,” she said.

Netanyahu's visit is predicted to impress significant protests and a few members of Congress are planning an alternate event.

Rep. Jim Clyburn said he’s within the early stages of bringing together “like-minded people” to exchange ideas on a path forward for Israelis and Palestinians that features a two-state solution. The top South Carolina Democrat was a vocal critic of Netanyahu's 2015 speech, which he and a number of other outstanding members of the Congressional Black Caucus viewed as an affront to Obama.

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