Top US lawmakers invite Israel’s Netanyahu to Congress amid Gaza war | Israel-Palestine Conflict News

The Israeli prime minister is set to deliver a speech to Congress despite growing anger over his government’s abuses in Gaza.

Top US lawmakers have issued a formal invitation for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to deliver a speech before Congress in the latest show of support for Israel amid its war in Gaza.

The invitation from Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives on Friday came as the International Criminal Court considers issuing an arrest warrant for Netanyahu for alleged war crimes.

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

He did not specify a date for the speech.

The letter was signed by House Speaker Mike Johnson, House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

If he accepts the invitation, Netanyahu would surpass the late former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill as the foreign leader who has given the most speeches in a joint session of Congress.

Churchill, who led his country during World War II and helped defeat Nazi Germany, and Netanyahu have addressed Congress on three separate occasions.

Netanyahu has faced global outrage over Israel’s apparent abuses in Gaza, where the Israeli army has killed more than 36,000 people and destroyed much of the territory.

Israel has also imposed a strict blockade on Gaza, bringing the territory to the brink of famine.

Netanyahu’s government this month defied its Western allies, including the United States, by launching a major attack on Rafah in southern Gaza, where nearly 1.5 million Palestinians had taken refuge. The offensive has displaced a million Palestinians.

An Israeli bombing of a camp for displaced people in Rafah earlier this month killed 45 Palestinians and sparked international outrage.

But the US Congress remains staunchly pro-Israel, although some Democrats have been increasingly critical of Netanyahu.

In March, Schumer called for new elections in Israel and described Netanyahu as an obstacle to peace, citing the Israeli prime minister’s opposition to the two-state solution.

The invitation to Congress on Friday drew the ire of Palestinian rights advocates. Actress Cynthia Nixon called it “embarrassing” in a social media post addressing Schumer.

“Perhaps Netanyahu can be arrested for his war crimes in the Senate,” he wrote.

Earlier on Friday, US President Joe Biden outlined a proposal that he said would lead to a “lasting” ceasefire in Gaza.

The three-phase plan would involve the release of Israeli captives in the territory, as well as hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel, Biden said.

The initiative, which Biden said was introduced by Israel, marks a change in the position of the US administration, which had only sought a temporary truce while supporting Israel’s goal of eliminating Hamas.

“President Biden understands that this war going on well beyond his election is not going to be something that really works for him politically,” Palestinian-American analyst Omar Baddar told Al Jazeera.

“It’s incredibly costly and damaging for him, and I think that’s why he’s putting his foot down right now and putting enormous pressure on Israel to accept the ceasefire agreement.”

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