Johnson Says He Will Invite Netanyahu To Address Congress Amid Fierce Criticism From Democrats

‘We’re just trying to work out schedules on all this,’ Johnson said in an interview with CNBC.

AP/Mary Altaffer
The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, September 22, 2023, at Turtle Bay. AP/Mary Altaffer

Speaker Johnson says he will soon invite Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to address Congress amid Democrats criticizing the premier’s performance. Just one week ago, Senator Schumer called for new elections in Israel but now says he would be willing to hear from Mr. Netanyahu directly. 

“I would love to have him come in and address a joint session of Congress. We’ll certainly extend that invitation,” Mr. Johnson said during an interview with CNBC. “We’re just trying to work out schedules on all this.”

The speaker also criticized the Senate majority leader for interfering in Israel’s domestic politics. “To suggest to our strongest ally in the Middle East, the only stable democracy, that he knows better how to run their democracy, is just patently absurd,” Mr. Johnson said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

Mr. Schumer says he would be more than happy to hear from the prime minister during a joint session of Congress. “Israel has no stronger ally than the United States, and our relationship transcends any one president or any one Prime Minister,” Mr. Schumer said in a statement. “I will always welcome the opportunity for the Prime Minister of Israel to speak to Congress in a bipartisan way.”

In an interview with the New York Times released on Wednesday, Mr. Schumer said that he could not live with himself if he did not weigh in on Mr. Netanyahu’s wartime actions. “This is so part of my core, my soul, my neshama,” Mr. Schumer said, using the Hebrew word for soul. “I said to myself, ‘This may hurt me politically; this may help me politically.’ I couldn’t look myself in the mirror if I didn’t do it.”

“To just go for policy changes — I thought it wouldn’t pierce, it wouldn’t do anything,” he said of his speech. “I wrestled with myself — maybe I should say Bibi should step down,” but, “That is telling Israel what to do, and it’s in the middle of a war.”

Mr. Schumer has faced immediate pushback from Jewish leaders and members of Congress. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said this week that “the pro-Israel community and our membership continue to have deep reservations about Senator Schumer’s speech on the Senate floor last week.” The group added that its members “believe that at a time when Israel is fighting an existential war, on the embers of the 1,200 innocents massacred on October 7, it is not a time for public criticisms that serve only to empower the detractors of Israel.”

He has received support from some in his native New York, however, and some in Israel. His own rabbi, Rachel Timoner, said in an interview with Politico that “There’s been a real fear in the American Jewish community of criticizing Israel. … He did something so great in breaking that silence.”

A former Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said Mr. Schumer demonstrated “courage” by coming out in favor of new elections. 

The New York Sun

© 2024 The New York Sun Company, LLC. All rights reserved.

Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. The material on this site is protected by copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used.

The New York Sun

Sign in or  create a free account

By continuing you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use