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Netanyahu to address Congress on July 24

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address a joint session of Congress on July 24, two top Republicans in Congress announced Thursday evening.

Louisiana House Speaker Mike Johnson and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement that the speech would provide Netanyahu with an opportunity to “share the government of Israel’s vision for defending democracy, fighting terrorism and establishing a just and lasting peace in the region.”

But in another statement suggesting a deep political divide over Netanyahu and Israel’s war in Gaza, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the majority leader, said he had “clear and deep disagreements with the prime minister, which I have expressed both privately and publicly and continue to do.” He said he nonetheless joined the request for Netanyahu to address Congress because “America’s relationship with Israel is unbreakable and transcends one man or one prime minister.”

Earlier this year, Schumer called on Netanyahu to step down and for Israel to hold new elections.

Last month, the four major leaders of Congress issued a bipartisan invitation to Netanyahu, but did not set a specific date. This masked the behind-the-scenes debate over whether to invite Netanyahu. The need for the two party leaders to issue separate statements explaining their different reasons for extending the invitation deadline highlighted the tension between the two sides.

Some progressives, such as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, have pledged to boycott the speech, calling Netanyahu a “war criminal” for his tactics in the war with Hamas that has killed tens of thousands of people in Gaza and unleashed a humanitarian disaster.

Republicans, by contrast, were eager to get close to Netanyahu and make clear their support for his policies. Johnson was the driving force behind the invitation.

“I am moved and honored to represent Israel in this address to the United States Congress, to present to the American people and to representatives of the world the truth about our just war against those who seek to destroy us,” Netanyahu said in a statement accepting the invitation.

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