Netanyahu to address Congress soon, US House Speaker says

Announcement comes as ICC seeks arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to be invited to visit the Capitol. AP
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US House Speaker Mike Johnson said Congress would soon host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Congressional leaders said in March that they were open to inviting Mr Netanyahu to address a joint session of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

“Tonight, I'm happy to announce something else to you: we will soon be hosting Prime Minister Netanyahu at the Capitol for a joint session of Congress,” Mr Johnson said at an event at the Israeli embassy in Washington.

He did not say when the visit would take place.

Such an invitation would need the approval of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat who has criticised Mr Netanyahu's leadership and called for elections in Israel amid the war in Gaza.

Israeli media reported that Mr Johnson said Mr Schumer agreed to host Mr Netanyahu.

A visit by the Israeli Prime Minister would create political tension in the US. Some Democrats, including former House speaker Nancy Pelosi, are against it, Axios reported on Wednesday.

Mr Johnson's announcement comes after Karim Khan, lead prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, said he was seeking arrest warrants for Mr Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as three Hamas leaders.

“I say tonight in response to those warrants from the ICC … the US will not acknowledge or abide by or acquiesce to his act – we will not do it,” Mr Johnson said.

Many Congress officials have criticised the decision and threatened to impose sanctions on Mr Khan and his team.

Mr Johnson was speaking at an event marking 76 years since Israel was founded. He spoke alongside Democratic representative Pete Aguilar and Israeli ambassador Michael Herzog.

“Since October 7, Israel has been fortunate to receive generous American support including critical material security, culminating in the hugely important national security supplemental,” said Mr Herzog, making a reference to the $95 billion aid package passed by Congress last month, with $26 billion set for Israel.

The news of Mr Netanyahu's possible visit comes as Israel continues military operations around Rafah, the last refuge in Gaza for more than a million Palestinians.

The war has caused a worsening humanitarian crisis. Food, fuel and medical supplies have dwindled, with the Israeli military blocking crossings into the enclave.

Updated: May 24, 2024, 4:54 AM