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Netanyahu accepts invitation to speak before joint session of Congress

The prime minister will be the first head of state to address both chambers of Congress four times


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem on May 5, 2024.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted an invitation, extended by Democratic and Republican leadership last week, to address a joint session of Congress in the near future.

“I am excited for the privilege to represent Israel before the two houses of Congress and to present the truth about our just war against those who seek to kill us before the American people and the entire world,” Netanyahu said on Saturday. 

The prime minister’s invitation, signed by House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), noted that “Congress was proud to host Israeli President Isaac Herzog” last year to mark 75 years of friendship between the U.S. and Israel.

“Less than three months later, the horrific attacks of October 7 shocked the world and forced your nation into a fight for its very existence,” the letter reads. “We join the State of Israel in your struggle against terror, especially as Hamas continues to hold American and Israeli citizens captive and its leaders jeopardize regional stability.”

The letter states that the U.S. and Israel face shared existential challenges, such as “the growing partnership between Iran, Russia and China.”

“To build on our enduring relationship and to highlight America’s solidarity with Israel, we invite you to share the Israeli government’s vision for defending democracy, combatting terror, and establishing a just and lasting peace in the region,” the congressional leaders wrote.

A source in Johnson’s office told Jewish Insider that the House speaker welcomes the news that Netanyahu has accepted the invitation and is coordinating with all parties on next steps.

They have yet to set a date for the address, according to Netanyahu’s office.

Schumer delayed signing the invitation to Netanyahu, facing pressure from some legislators who favored the move as well as opponents of such an offer within the Democratic Party, such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and others who have said they would boycott the speech.

Netanyahu will be the first head of state to address both chambers of Congress four times; he was previously tied with U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill in doing so three times.

Netanyahu previously spoke before both houses of Congress in 2015, when he opposed the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran. Then-President Barack Obama opposed the invitation, and many Democrats did not attend the address.

Emily Jacobs contributed to this report.

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