speaker's speech

Johnson formally announces Netanyahu invitation, slams Biden in Israeli Embassy speech

Israeli Ambassador Mike Herzog, in his own remarks, offered thanks to Congress, but didn’t directly mention President Joe Biden

Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) does an interview with CNN at the U.S. Capitol on April 17, 2024 in Washington, D.C.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), speaking on Thursday at an event at the Israeli Embassy in Washington celebrating Israel’s 76th Independence Day, said that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu would soon speak to a joint meeting of Congress. 

Johnson first floated the invitation months ago, in an apparent bid to pressure Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) after Schumer called for Netanyahu’s ouster. Schumer has said for months that he’s open to inviting the Israeli leader to speak.

Johnson publicly pressed Schumer to finalize the invitation earlier this week, and the expected address is already dividing Democrats, some of whom preemptively pledged to boycott the speech.

In his speech, the speaker also made a coded, but clear, dig at President Joe Biden, accusing him of wavering in his support for Israel. 

“Some leaders who have previously been proud to stand with Israel and and even some who have made statements of solidarity following October 7, and suddenly began to backpedal on that support,” Johnson said. “On one day, they tell us that we can give no safe harbor to hate, but on the next they demand that Israel must give safe harbor to Hamas. They tell us they support Israel but they give cover to antisemitism.”

The remarks seemed to be a dig at Biden who, after expressing strong support for Israel in his Holocaust remembrance speech, threatened the following day to cut arms shipments to Israel over its operations in Rafah.

Israeli Ambassador Mike Herzog, in his own remarks, offered thanks to Congress, but didn’t directly mention President Joe Biden.

Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA), the No. 3 House Democrat, delivered brief remarks in which he emphasized Democratic and bipartisan support for Israel. 

“The U.S.-Israel relationship has been marked here at home by strong bipartisanship,” he said. “I’m pleased that we heard from the speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, to make clear that the safety and security of Israel is paramount to both Democrats and Republicans. Together, Democrats and Republicans have delivered critical assistance and aid to Israel that will help Israel defend itself against those who seek destruction, and prosecute its war against Hamas.”

Democrats have increasingly accused House Republicans of seeking to use Israel policy and antisemitism as political wedge issues to divide them.

“Not as Democrats and Republicans, but as Americans. We reaffirm our commitment to Israel’s sovereignty, and its place is America’s strongest ally in the Middle East,” Aguilar continued.

Subscribe now to
the Daily Kickoff

The politics and business news you need to stay up to date, delivered each morning in a must-read newsletter.