Netanyahu to address US Congress on 24 July

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address US lawmakers in Washington DC on 24 July, congressional leaders announced on Thursday.

He will speak to both chambers of Congress – the Senate and the House of Representatives – as the Israel-Gaza war continues.

Republicans and Democrats both invited the prime minister to speak, but the date of his speech was not made official until Thursday.

Last month the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor applied for arrest warrants against the Israeli leader and his defence minister, Yoav Galant, on charges related to the war.

Mr Netanyahu condemned the ICC move, saying he rejected with disgust that “democratic Israel” had been compared to what he called “mass murderers”.

Mr Netanyahu said, according to a statement released by congressional leaders, that he was “very moved to have the privilege of representing Israel… to present the truth about our just war against those who seek to destroy us”.

In their letter inviting the prime minister, House Speaker Mike Johnson and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell – both Republicans – said they hoped Mr Netanyahu would take the opportunity to “share the Israeli government’s vision for defending democracy, combatting terror, and establishing a just and lasting peace in the region”.

Mr Netanyahu’s visit comes as that relationship with the US has grown tense, especially among leading US Democrats.

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer, who is Jewish, said in a separate statement that he supported the invitation despite his “clear and profound disagreements with the Prime Minister, which I have voiced both privately and publicly”.

“But because America’s relationship with Israel is ironclad and transcends one person or prime minister I joined the request for him to speak,” he said.

US President Joe Biden, a Democrat, has also grown more critical of Israel as the war continues and the death toll in Gaza climbs.

Mr Biden, who is running for re-election in November, has come under political pressure from his party’s left flank to do more to convince Israel to limit its war in Gaza.

Some progressive leaders, such as Sen Bernie Sanders of Vermont, have said they intend to boycott Mr Netanyahu’s speech in protest at Israel’s conduct in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas-led fighters killed about 1,200 people and took 251 others hostage during an attack on southern Israel on 7 October.

At least 36,470 people have been killed in Gaza in almost eight months of fighting since then, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Mr Biden has recently made public his administration’s push for a ceasefire deal that would begin a six-week cessation of hostilities in Gaza.

The three-part plan that the president unveiled last week would see a “surge” of humanitarian aid, as well as an exchange of some hostages for Palestinian prisoners before a permanent end to the war.

The proposal, however, has encountered vocal opposition from some members of Israel’s government, which has raised doubt that an agreement might be reached.

Hanoch Milwidsky, a senior member of the Knesset for Mr Netanyahu’s Likud Party, told the BBC on Sunday that Israel’s governing coalition was unified in opposition to the deal, which he called “completely unacceptable”.

Mr Netanyahu last spoke to the US Congress in 2015, when both chambers were controlled by Republicans. He used the opportunity to criticise then President Barack Obama, a Democrat, for pursuing a deal with US allies and Iran to curtail Tehran’s nuclear programme.

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