newsU.S.-Israel Relations

Netanyahu accepts invitation to address Congress

The address will be the Israeli premier's fourth, the highest-ever for a foreign leader • Sen. Bernie Sanders says he will boycott the address, calling Netanyahu a "war criminal."

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

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday accepted an invitation to address both chambers of the U.S. Congress.

“I am thrilled by the privilege to represent Israel before both chambers of Congress and to present the truth about our just war against those who seek our lives to the representatives of the American people and the entire world,” read a statement released by his office.

The statement noted that it will be the fourth time the Israeli premier has addresses the U.S. governing bodies, the highest number for any foreign head of state.

British wartime leader Winston Churchill is the only other head of state to have addressed Congress three times.

U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson, Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnel and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries extended the invitation to Netanyahu on Friday evening.

“To build on our enduring relationship and to highlight America’s solidarity with Israel, we invite you to share the Israeli government’s vision for defending democracy, combating terror and establishing a just and lasting peace in the region,” reads the invitation letter.

“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 states. “For this reason…we would like to invite you to address a joint meeting of Congress.”

Some members of Congress opposed to Netanyahu and Israel’s war against Hamas have said they will boycott the Israeli premier’s address.

“Benjamin Netanyahu is a war criminal. He should not be invited to address a joint meeting of Congress. I certainly will not attend,” tweeted Sen. Bernie Sanders.

He denounced Hamas, but said Israel does not have the right “to go to war against the entire Palestinian people.”

It “most certainly does not have the right to block humanitarian aid from coming in to the desperate people of Gaza, creating the conditions for starvation and famine,” he wrote, adding, “This is a clear violation of American and international law.”

The speech is scheduled to take place later this month, according to Israel Hayom. According to The Hill, citing a source familiar with the matter, the address could take place “as soon as the next eight weeks or soon after August recess.”

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