Thu 20 Jun 2024 5:39 pm - Jerusalem Time

A prominent American senator says that inviting Netanyahu to attend Congress is a mistake

US Senator Chris Van Hollen (Democrat from Maryland), a prominent US lawmaker and member of the House Foreign Relations Committee, criticized the decision of the leadership of the House of Representatives and the Senate to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to deliver a speech before Congress next month.

Speaking to Bloomberg newspaper published on Wednesday, Van Hollen said that Netanyahu’s speech before Congress risks signaling that Washington supports his war strategy in Gaza, which has claimed the lives of more than 37,000 Palestinians, most of whom are women and children, and wounded eighty thousand others, most of whom are also women and children. So far, it has destroyed more than 70% of the buildings and infrastructure, and forced the entire population of the Strip to flee.

The senator warns that the invitation to address Congress sends a message to Netanyahu that he can continue to avoid repeated demands by Democrats (in the Senate and House of Representatives) for the Israeli army to do more to protect the lives of civilians in Gaza.

Van Hollen said: “I am not sure why the United States wants to reward the Prime Minister (Netanyahu), who has repeatedly boasted about rejecting the requests of the President of the United States.”

“Netanyahu wants to come here and pretend to be Winston Churchill – and he is not Winston Churchill.”

These statements appear to be a reference to a video clip published by Netanyahu, in which he criticized the administration of US President Joe Biden for keeping a shipment of 1,800 2,000-pound bombs and 1,700 500-pound bombs for Israel.

In the video, Netanyahu compared Israel's war on Gaza to Britain's World War II battle against Nazi Germany, quoting an iconic speech by Winston Churchill in which he called on the United States to supply Britain with new weapons.

“Give us the tools and we will finish the job much faster,” Netanyahu said.

Van Hollen's statements are noteworthy given that he is closer to the center of the Democratic Party, has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from pro-Israel donors, and is less critical of Israel's war efforts than more progressive lawmakers (in the House), such as Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Cory Bush of Missouri, or Jamaal Bowman from New York, and in the Senate such as Senator Bernie Sanders (from Vermont) and Senator Richard Durbin (from Illinois).

The leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives, both Democratic and Republican, invited Netanyahu to address a joint meeting of Congress on July 24.

“We join the State of Israel in your fight against terrorism, especially since Hamas continues to detain American and Israeli citizens and its leaders endanger regional stability,” the lawmakers said in a letter to Netanyahu.

The invitation comes despite mounting criticism of Netanyahu's handling of the war on Gaza, which included public disagreements with the White House.

Several lawmakers announced plans to boycott the speech, including Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Fifty-eight lawmakers were absent from Netanyahu's speech to Congress in 2015.

It is noteworthy that the famous American journalist in the New York Times, Thomas Friedman, who is close to President Joe Biden, criticized in his article on Wednesday Netanyahu’s invitation, and criticized the Democrats who went ahead with the invitation, pointing out that the undeclared goal of this initiative by Republicans in Congress is “to divide the Democrats and provoke Loud insults from their more progressive representatives, which will alienate American Jewish voters, donors and donors, and turn them toward Donald Trump.”

Friedman adds: “Netanyahu knows that it is all about domestic American politics, and for this reason his acceptance of the invitation to speak represents an act of betrayal to Joe Biden - who went to Israel to hug him in the days after October 7 and hugged him tightly” and continued to support him unconditionally. The limited scope of the Israeli war on Gaza.

In addition to criticizing the idea of inviting Netanyahu to visit Washington, Van Hollen repeated his call to halt the transfer of offensive weapons to Israel, until it receives guarantees that Israel will not obstruct the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

“When it comes to offensive weapons systems, I don't think we should have a blank fingerprint policy,” Van Hollen said.


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A prominent American senator says that inviting Netanyahu to attend Congress is a mistake