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Israel’s Netanyahu set to address US Congress on July 24

WASHINGTON — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to address a joint meeting of Congress on July 24, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Congressional leaders last week formally invited Netanyahu to come speak, delivering the most recent show of wartime support for the longtime ally despite mounting political divisions over Israel’s military assault on Hamas terrorists in Gaza. But the date of the speech had been in flux.

It has now been set for July 24, according to the person, who was granted anonymity to discuss private planning.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, along with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries, signed the letter extending the invitation to Netanyahu. They said the offer was intended to “highlight America’s solidarity with Israel.”

Netanyahu’s appearance before a growingly divided Congress is sure to be contentious and met with plenty of protests both inside the Capitol from lawmakers and outside by pro-Palestinian protesters. And it will put on stark display the growing election-year divisions among Democrats over the prime minister’s prosecution of the monthslong war against Hamas terrorists.

Democratic lawmakers most critical of Netanyahu’s strategy are expected to be no-shows for the address. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent from Vermont, said: “Netanyahu is a war criminal. I certainly will not attend.”

Netanyahu’s visit to the Capitol also comes as the relationship between President Joe Biden and the leader of the Jewish state has frayed in recent months. Biden has privately and publicly criticized Netanyahu’s handling of the war and criticized the Israeli government.

Late last week, Biden announced a proposed agreement to end the fighting in Gaza, putting growing pressure on Netanyahu to accept the deal. Many Israelis have been urging him to embrace the terms, but his allies have threatened to leave his coalition government if he does.

Netanyahu called a permanent cease-fire in Gaza a “nonstarter” until long-standing conditions for ending the war are met, appearing to undermine the proposal that Biden described as an Israeli one.

Johnson first suggested inviting the Israeli leader, saying it would be “a great honor of mine” to invite him. His move came soon after Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in the U.S., delivered a stinging rebuke of Netanyahu in a lengthy speech on the Senate floor. Schumer said in the speech that Netanyahu had “lost his way” amid the Israeli bombing campaign in Gaza.

Even so, Schumer had said he would join in the invitation because “our relationship with Israel is ironclad and transcends any one prime minister or president.”

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