US Congress faces growing calls to withdraw Netanyahu invitation: ‘a terrible mistake’

Author: Editors Desk Source: The Guardian
June 27, 2024 at 13:26
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, speaks during a ceremony at the Nahalat Yitzhak Cemetery in Tel Aviv, Israel, on 18 June 2024. Photograph: Shaul Golan/AP
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, speaks during a ceremony at the Nahalat Yitzhak Cemetery in Tel Aviv, Israel, on 18 June 2024. Photograph: Shaul Golan/AP

Notable Israelis add their voices to oppose invite extended by Mike Johnson, which Democrats plan to boycott

A group of prominent Israelis – including a former prime minister and an ex-head of Mossad, the foreign intelligence service – have added their voices to the growing domestic calls in the US for Congress to withdraw its invitation to Benjamin Netanyahu to address it next month, calling the move “a terrible mistake”.

The plea, in an op-ed article in the New York Times, argues that the invitation rewards Netanyahu, Israel’s current prime minister, for “scandalous and destructive conduct”, including intelligence failures that led to last October’s deadly Hamas attack and the ensuing bloody war in Gaza which shows no sign of ending.

“Congress has made a terrible mistake. Mr Netanyahu’s appearance in Washington will not represent the State of Israel and its citizens, and it will reward his scandalous and destructive conduct toward our country,” the article’s six authors argue in a blistering critique that also accuses the Israeli prime minister of failing to secure the release of scores of hostages taken in last year’s attack and still held captive.

The article’s authors were Ehud Barak, a former prime minister; Tamir Pardo, an ex-director of Mossad; David Harel, the president of Israel’s academy of sciences and humanities; the novelist David Grossman; Talia Sasson, a former director in the state attorney’s office; and Aaron Ciechanover, a Nobel prize-winning chemist.

Their august status and biting criticism will reinforce the opposition of many Democrats to Netanyahu’s appearance before a joint session on Capitol Hill on 24 July – a sentiment strengthened by his accusation last week that the Biden administration is hampering Israel’s war effort by deliberately withholding weapons, a charge the White House denies.

The invitation was originally extended by the Republican House speaker, Mike Johnson, and endorsed by Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic House minority leader, and the Democratic Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, despite the latter’s earlier denunciation of Netanyahu and call for fresh Israeli elections.

Several Democrats have said they will boycott Netanyahu’s congressional appearance, most notably Bernie Sanders, the leftwing senator for Vermont, who has branded the prime minister “a war criminal”.

Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat in the House rules committee, has called the invitation to Netanyahu “deeply troubling” and also vowed to stay away. Other critical Democrats have included former House speaker Nancy Pelosi.

In comments that will be grist to the Democrats’ mill, the six Israelis write: “Inviting Mr Netanyahu will reward his contempt for US efforts to establish a peace plan, allow more aid to the beleaguered people of Gaza and do a better job of sparing civilians.

“Time and again, he has rejected President Biden’s plan to remove Hamas from power in Gaza through the establishment of a peacekeeping force.”

Setting out the domestic opposition to Netanyahu among Israelis, they add in a scathing conclusion: “Giving Mr Netanyahu the stage in Washington will all but dismiss the rage and pain of his people, as expressed in the demonstrations throughout the country. American lawmakers should not let that happen. They should ask Mr Netanyahu to stay home.”

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