Democrats Disgruntled Over Netanyahu’s Congressional Address Amid Ceasefire Talks


House Democrats are expressing dissatisfaction with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visiting the United States to address a joint session of Congress. Some argue that his visit comes at an inopportune time, given the ongoing ceasefire discussions.

Last Friday, Congressional leaders from both parties extended an invitation to Netanyahu to speak on Capitol Hill. However, this move has already caused friction between Republicans and Democrats, and even within the Democratic caucus.

Rep. Becca Balint (D-VT) expressed disagreement with the idea of Netanyahu addressing Congress so soon after President Joe Biden proposed a new ceasefire initiative regarding the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

“I still feel like this is a terrible time for him to come,” Balint told Truth Voices. “We have this ceasefire on the table. I have strong concerns that it undermines not just the president but also undermines all of the Israelis who have taken to the streets in the last few days, demanding that Netanyahu take this deal.”

The exact date for Netanyahu’s address has yet to be confirmed. Both House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) and Netanyahu’s office denied reports that the speech would occur on June 13, which coincides with the Jewish holiday Shavuot.

The speaker’s office told Truth Voices that discussions regarding the address date are ongoing.

“The speaker’s office is still coordinating with all relevant parties to establish a date for Prime Minister Netanyahu to deliver a joint address to Congress,” Taylor Hauslee, communications director for Johnson, said. “We will announce a date once it is finalized.”

The attendance at Netanyahu’s address remains uncertain. The conflict in Gaza has divided the Democratic caucus, with progressives pushing for an immediate ceasefire to alleviate the humanitarian crisis affecting Palestinian civilians.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), a progressive “Squad” member and outspoken critic of Netanyahu, indicated she might skip the prime minister’s speech and expressed her disapproval of the situation.

“My opinion on this is pretty clear: He shouldn’t be here,” Ocasio-Cortez said of Netanyahu. “He shouldn’t be addressing Congress. I don’t think that it is productive, for a Republican or Democrat, to invite him.”

Netanyahu’s last address before Congress was in 2015 at the invitation of then-Speaker John Boehner, aimed at criticizing the Iran nuclear deal. Boehner did not inform then-President Barack Obama about the invite, leading several Democrats to boycott the address.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has vowed repeatedly not to attend Netanyahu’s speech, calling him a war criminal. Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) anticipates a “large” number of members will boycott the speech, according to Axios. She mentioned that several lawmakers who attended Netanyahu’s 2015 speech have stated they will not attend this time.

Balint is “thinking carefully” about her decision to attend the address, considering what’s best for her district.

“I’ve been an outspoken critic of him for a long time,” Balint said of Netanyahu. “And I’m trying to figure out for me and my constituents: Is it more important for me to be there in the room as a countervoice? Or is it more important for me to make a statement of, you know, rejecting his presence here at this time?”

Some Democrats hope that Netanyahu’s address will offer solutions to end the conflict.

“I don’t know if it’s a great time for him to come or not, one way or the other,” Rep. Glenn Ivey (D-MD) told Truth Voices. “I mean, it’d be great if there’s some sort of big announcement about how to move forward. Hopefully it’ll be an acceptance of the Biden plan, but I don’t know what the timing is going to be. We’ll have to see.”

On Tuesday, the House is set to vote on a resolution that will impose sanctions on the International Criminal Court if it attempts to “investigate, arrest, detain, or prosecute any protected person of the United States and its allies.” This comes as Netanyahu faces an arrest warrant application from the ICC over alleged war crimes.

The Biden administration said on Monday it “strongly opposes” the resolution.

“The Administration is deeply concerned about the ICC Prosecutor’s heedless rush to apply for arrest warrants for senior Israeli officials,” the Biden administration said in a statement. “At the same time, the Administration opposes the imposition of sanctions against the ICC, its personnel, its judges, or those who assist its work.

“There are more effective ways to defend Israel, preserve U.S. positions on the ICC, and promote international justice and accountability, and the Administration stands ready to work with the Congress on those options,” the Biden administration continued.

Balint criticized Netanyahu’s address as a “deeply political move” by Congressional Republicans, who have mostly united in condemning Hamas and pro-Palestinian protests while expressing full support for Israel.

“You know everything that happens here in Washington is through a political lens,” Balint said. “And so it has been challenging to see this as something other than a deeply political move to try to make our president look bad.”

She added, “You have a deal on the table, finally, that might actually work. You have a leader in Israel who I believe is not making decisions in the best interest of his nation, but it’s in his own best interests. … It’s difficult for me to see this other than, once again, a way for us to not get to a conclusion of this war in the near term. This cannot drag on.”

Rachel Schilke
Rachel Schilke
Congress Reporter.

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