US congressional leaders invite Netanyahu to address joint meeting of Congress

By Thomson Reuters May 31, 2024 | 2:52 PM

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The leaders of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint meeting of Congress, House Speaker Mike Johnson announced on Friday, though the date of the speech has not been set.

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

It was first reported by The Hill news website.

Johnson had said the Israeli leader would soon address a joint meeting of Congress, amid heightened tensions with President Joe Biden’s administration over Netanyahu’s handling of the war in Gaza.

The Republican speaker, a critic of the Democratic president’s Israel policy, had said he would invite Netanyahu whether or not congressional Democratic leaders signed onto the letter.

Netanyahu, who has long aligned himself with U.S. Republicans, in March addressed members of the party in the Senate via a video link, nearly a week after Schumer gave a Senate speech branding the prime minister an obstacle to peace and urging new elections in Israel.

Addresses to joint meetings of Congress by foreign leaders are a rare honor generally reserved for the closest U.S. allies or major world figures. Netanyahu has already given three such addresses, most recently in 2015.

This speech would make Netanyahu the first foreign leader to address joint meetings of Congress four times. He is currently tied at three with Britain’s wartime prime minister, Winston Churchill.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; additional reporting by Jasper Ward; editing by Rami Ayyub and Jonathan Oatis)