newsU.S.-Israel Relations

McConnell: Antisemitism ‘reaches from college campuses to US Capitol’

“The last thing a sovereign democracy under siege needs is a public tongue-lashing from the White House,” the senate minority leader said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves to the crowd during his address to a joint session of Congress in Washington, March 3, 2015. Photo by Amos Ben Gershom/GPO.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves to the crowd during his address to a joint session of Congress in Washington, March 3, 2015. Photo by Amos Ben Gershom/GPO.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) slammed colleagues planning to boycott Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming address to Congress, drawing a link between members of Congress and anti-Israel campus protesters.

“The scourge of antisemitism is a blight on once-prestigious institutions across our country, and unfortunately, it reaches from college campuses right here to the U.S. Capitol,” McConnell said in a Senate floor speech on Tuesday.

“Democrats have ceded more and more influence to despicable causes like the boycott, divest and sanction movement and to the high-profile newcomers who traffic in unvarnished antisemitism,” he added.

When Netanyahu last addressed Congress in 2015, 58 Democrats skipped the speech, in part because it was organized solely by Republican leadership in the House and Senate. This time, Netanyahu received an invitation on behalf of all four of the congressional party leaders, despite an initial negotiating delay from Democrats.

An even larger number of Democrats might boycott Netanyahu’s July 24 address, over objections to his handling of the war in Gaza.

Some Democrats are planning to counterprogram and protest Netanyahu’s address, including by potentially disrupting it, Axios reported Sunday.

“If he wants to come to speak to members of Congress about how to end the war and release hostages, I would be fine doing that,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) told Meet the Press on Sunday. “But I’m not going to sit in a one-way lecture.”

Khanna, a progressive, is one of several Democrats who have said that they won’t attend the Israeli prime minister’s speech, including Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Other senior Democrats like Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) have said they’re undecided about attending but would not have sent the invitation in the first place.

McConnell alluded in his floor speech on Tuesday to the plans to counter-program Netanyahu’s address and said that Democrats were participating in “grotesque attempts to interfere in Israel’s politics.”

“The last thing a sovereign democracy under siege needs is a public tongue-lashing from the White House or a scolding speech from the floor of the Senate,” McConnell said. 

“Israel needs the weapons the president has withheld. It needs the time and space to finish the job against the terrorists trying to destroy it,” he added. “It needs the freedom to operate on its own timetable based on tactical reality in the Middle East, not on the political winds in Washington.”

The Biden administration has confirmed that it “paused” a delivery of 2,000-pound bombs to the Jewish state over concerns that they could cause civilian casualties.

Netanyahu released a video on Tuesday suggesting that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken informed him that the shipment would be released.

“Secretary Blinken assured me that the administration is working day and night to remove these bottlenecks,” Netanyahu said. “I certainly hope that’s the case. It should be the case.”

In response to Netanyahu’s video, Blinken denied on Tuesday that the Biden administration was holding up any significant amount of military aid to the Jewish state.

“We have one case that the president has talked about publicly about the 2,000-pound bombs and about the concerns that we have about them being used in densely populated areas,” Blinken said at a press conference on Tuesday. “That remains.” 

“There’s been no change in our posture … to make sure Israel has what it needs to defend itself across these many threats,” he added.

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