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Israel’s Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress on July 24

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been invited to deliver an address to a joint session of Congress on July 24, 2024.
Debbie Hill/Pool/AFP via Getty Images
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been invited to deliver an address to a joint session of Congress on July 24, 2024.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to address a joint session of Congress on July 24 as his country continues to wage war against Hamas in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 attacks.

All four top Congressional leaders extended the formal invitation to Netanyahu at the end of May, noting that Israeli President Isaac Herzog addressed Congress last year.

“Less than three months later, the horrific attacks of October 7th shocked the world and forced your nation into a fight for its very existence,” read the letter from House Speaker Mike Johnson, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries. “We join the State of Israel in your struggle against terror, especially as Hamas continues to hold American and Israeli citizens captive and its leaders jeopardize regional stability.”

The letter invites the Israeli leader “to share the Israeli government’s vision for defending democracy, combatting terror, and establishing a just and lasting peace in the region.”

In response to the invitation, Netanyahu said in a statement he is “moved to have the privilege of representing Israel before both Houses of Congress and to present the truth about our just war against those who seek to destroy us to the representatives of the American people and the entire world.”

Dissent among Democrats

Schumer, the top-ranking Jewish official in the U.S., previously came under criticism for publicly calling on Israel to hold new elections.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu has lost his way by allowing his political survival to take precedence over the best interests of Israel,” he said in March.

In a statement after the date of the address was finalized, Schumer said he has “clear and profound disagreements with the Prime Minister, which I have voiced both privately and publicly and will continue to do so. But because America’s relationship with Israel is ironclad and transcends one person or prime minister I joined the request for him to speak.”

The speech is expected to be contentious. Several Congressional Democrats have already signaled plans to boycott the address over concerns about the way Israel has prosecuted its war against Hamas. Those protests will further highlight the divisions within Congressional Democrats over support of Israel.

White House seeking a path to peace

The announcement comes a week after President Biden announced that Israel has offered a proposal offering a “roadmap” to a ceasefire and release of hostages being held in Gaza.

Biden said the proposal includes three phases, which would include a complete ceasefire and withdrawal of Israeli forces from populated areas of Gaza and the release of hostages in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

In response, Israel issued a statement saying Netanyahu authorized a proposal in order to return the hostages to Israel, but said “the war will not end until all of [the Israeli government’s] goals are achieved, including the return of all our abductees and the elimination of Hamas’ military and governmental capabilities.”

Copyright 2024 NPR

Barbara Sprunt is a producer on NPR's Washington desk, where she reports and produces breaking news and feature political content. She formerly produced the NPR Politics Podcast and got her start in radio at as an intern on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is an alumnus of the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship at the National Press Foundation. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania native.