Netanyahu receives bipartisan invitation to address Congress

Some progressive Democrats have said they’ll boycott the planned speech

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint session of Congress in the House chamber as Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) left, and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) president pro tempore of the Senate on March 3, 2015.

The four leaders of Congress on Friday formally invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress. 

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) sent a letter to Netanyahu signed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The missive reiterated the bipartisan support Israel has in the U.S. Congress and invited him to speak at a joint session. 

“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 group wrote. “For this reason, on behalf of the bipartisan leadership of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate, we would like to invite you to address a Joint Meeting of Congress.”

“The existential challenges we face, including the growing partnership between Iran, Russia, and China, threaten the security, peace, and prosperity of our countries and of free people around the world. 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 letter continued. 

The letter was delivered to the Israeli Embassy in Washington on Friday afternoon. 

Johnson had said for weeks that he intended to invite Netanyahu to address Congress, putting pressure on Schumer to sign his name to today’s letter. He told reporters last week that Schumer had agreed to sign on, allowing the invitation to be fully bipartisan. 

Schumer and Jeffries signing on to Friday’s letter all but ensures Netanyahu will be received by a packed House chamber. 

Should Netanyahu accept the invitation, which comes with political risks back home, his address will come months after Schumer called for new elections in Israel over the prime minister’s handling of the war in Gaza. Schumer described Netanyahu in a speech on the Senate floor in March as one of the leading obstacles to long-term peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

The Hamas attacks of Oct. 7 and the subsequent war in Gaza have highlighted internal divisions among Democrats on Israel policy. While many in the party have split on the issue of Israel, most have been critical of Netanyahu’s leadership and handling of the war. 

Progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) have vowed to boycott the speech, and a number of their like-minded colleagues are considering following suit. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) replied with a “no,” when asked if Schumer should sign his name to the invitation earlier this month. Other Democrats who have been critical of Netanyahu expressed more openness to the idea. 

“Israel is an ally of ours, our only Democratic ally in the region. I’d be interested in hearing what he has to say in a joint session,” Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) told JI.

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