Netanyahu Gets Bipartisan Invite to Address Congress

May 31, 2024 by Dan McCue
Netanyahu Gets Bipartisan Invite to Address Congress
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a cabinet meeting at the Kirya military base, which houses the Israeli Ministry of Defense, in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Dec. 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg, Pool, File)

WASHINGTON — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been invited to deliver an address to a joint meeting of Congress.

The invitation from House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was sent through the Israeli embassy here in Washington.

It was announced on Friday about an hour after President Joe Biden unveiled a new peace plan that he said could win the release of surviving hostages and bring an end to seven months of fighting.

“It’s time for this war to end, for the day after to begin,” Biden said from the State Dining Room at the White House. 

“At this point, Hamas no longer is capable of carrying out another Oct. 7 — one of the Israelis’ main objectives in this war and, quite frankly, a righteous one,” the president said, referring to the surprise attack on Israel that began the current conflict.

“I know there are those in Israel who will not agree with this plan and will call for the war to continue indefinitely,” Biden said, adding, “I’ve urged the leadership in Israel to stand behind this deal, despite whatever pressure comes. 

“And to the people of Israel, let me say this,” he continued. “As someone whose had a lifelong commitment to Israel, as the only American president who has ever gone to Israel in a time of war, as someone who just sent the U.S. forces to directly defend Israel when it was attacked by Iran, I ask you to take a step back and think what will happen if this moment is lost.” 

The proposal, which has been transmitted by Qatar to Hamas, has three components.

As described by Biden, the first phase would last for six weeks. It would include a full and complete ceasefire; a withdrawal of Israeli forces from all populated areas of Gaza; a release of a number of hostages — including women, the elderly and wounded — in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.  

“There are American hostages who would be released at this stage, and we want them home,” Biden added.

In addition, the remains of hostages who have been killed would be returned to their families.

Palestinian civilians would also be allowed to return to their homes and neighborhoods in all areas of Gaza, including in the north. At the same time, the president said, humanitarian assistance would surge with 600 trucks carrying aid into Gaza daily.

The president conceded that a number of details still need to be negotiated to bring a lasting peace to Gaza, but said the Israeli proposal includes a provision that if talks extend beyond the current six weeks allotted for them, the ceasefire would be extended for however long the negotiations continue.

During the second phase of the proposal, there would be an exchange for the release of all remaining living hostages, including male soldiers; Israeli forces would withdraw from Gaza; and as long as Hamas lives up to its commitments, the temporary ceasefire would become permanent.

In phase three, the planning for the reconstruction of Gaza would begin, and any final remains of hostages who have been killed would be returned to their families. 

“That’s the offer that’s now on the table and what we’ve been asking for. It’s what we need,” the president said.

“This is truly a decisive moment,” he continued. “Hamas says it wants a ceasefire. This deal is an opportunity to prove whether they really mean it.”

In their letter to Netanyahu, the four congressional leaders talk about mutual “existential challenges” the United States and Israel face.

These include “the growing partnership between Iran, Russia and China” that, they said,  “threaten the security, peace and prosperity of our countries and of free people around the world.” 

In extending the invitation, they said, they hoped to “build on our enduring relationship and to highlight America’s solidarity with Israel.”

They invite Netanyahu to “share the Israeli government’s vision for defending democracy, combating terror, and establishing a just and lasting peace in the region.”

No specific date for the prime minister’s visit is mentioned in the letter, but an aide to one of the leaders told The Well News it would likely occur shortly after the August recess, given a busy summer calendar that includes two political conventions, and the negotiations of several appropriations bills.

The current armed conflict began in October when Hamas gunmen launched an unprecedented attack on Israel, killing about 1,200 people and taking 252 back to Gaza as hostages.

Since then, an estimated 36,000 people have been killed across Gaza as Israel has pursued  the complete destruction of Hamas’ military and governing capabilities in the region.

Shortly after Biden spoke, but before the congressional invitation became public, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office released a statement saying the new peace proposal was in keeping with Netanyahu’s insistence that Israel would not end the war before those goals were achieved.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and @DanMcCue

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