Netanyahu to address US Congress soon: Democrats RSVP 'no' to 'terrible idea'


Speaker of the US House Mike Johnson said on Thursday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address a joint session of Congress "soon."

Speaking at the annual Independence Day celebration held by the Israeli Embassy in Washington, Johnson stated, "This will be a timely and a very strong show of support to the Israeli government in their time of greatest need."

Johnson did not specify when Netanyahu's address will take place, but he told reporters on the sidelines of the event that US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had informed him that he would approve the invitation. It is unclear if Netanyahu will accept the invitation even if it is formally extended.

 Cast from the past: Netanyahu's last joint session address in 2015

In 2015, Netanyahu gave his last joint session address, which was arranged by Republican Congressional leaders during Obama administration. Nearly 60 Democrats did not attend his address.

Given that progressives are growing more and more opposed to Israel's battle in Gaza against Hamas, a far greater number of Democrats may abstain from a Netanyahu address this time.

To go or not to go?

Senator Bernie Sanders on CNN said, "It's a terrible idea. No, I won't go. You have a prime minister who has created the worst humanitarian disaster in modern history."

"Israel certainly has the right to protection from a terrorist attack by Hamas, but Netanyahu has launched a war against the entire Palestinian people, against women and children. 5% of the population of the Gaza Strip were killed or injured, 60% of them were women and children. 200,000 residential buildings were completely destroyed. How can one invite someone who has acted so badly towards the Palestinians? I think this is a very bad idea," he added.

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Jim Himes told Axios that the address "would be an enormously controversial, divisive thing."

You should "expect something similar" to the boycott of 2015, Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal told Axios. "There certainly will be something... there's a conversation about what it should be and what it looks like."

"A lot" of Democrats, according to Representative Ro Khanna, may miss the speech, maybe more than in 2015 "given what's going on" in Gaza.

.How have US-Israel relations changed since the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict?

The conflict caused by Hamas' attack on October 7 has also strained Netanyahu's relationship with US President Joe Biden, who warned Israel for the first time earlier this month to withhold arms if it launched a large attack in Rafah's civilian regions.

While Netanyahu looks to have secured an invitation from Congress, he has yet to get one from the White House, and traveling to Washington without one would just underscore the differences.

If he accepts the invitation, Netanyahu would be the first foreign leader in history to speak before Congress's joint sessions four times. Winston Churchill, former prime minister of Britain, and he are now tied at three.

Netanyahu's woes

Tens of thousands of demonstrators, some of whose relatives are among the 128 hostages who are still being held in Gaza, have demanded new polls, placing Netanyahu under political duress in Israel. Since the start of the conflict, his popularity has sharply declined