Schumer faces pressure not to sign on to Netanyahu congressional address

To some observers, Schumer’s hesitance to sign on to the invitation signals a growing divide between the Democratic Party and Israel.

By Corey Walker, The Algemeiner

US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is facing pressure from top Democrats not to sign on to an invitation for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address the US Congress despite being handed a deadline by the House’s Republican leader.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) told reporters on Tuesday that if Schumer chooses not to co-sign the invitation by Wednesday, House Republicans will hold the speech alone and invite senators.

Schumer signaled to reporters that he is still deliberating over whether to sign the invitation.

“I’m discussing that now with the Speaker of the House, and as I’ve always said our relationship with Israel is ironclad and transcends any one prime minister or president,” Schumer said on Tuesday.

Many liberal lawmakers have expressed disapproval of how Netanyahu and the Israeli government have prosecuted the war in Gaza and are pushing back against a potential invitation to Israel’s prime minister.

Progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) vowed not to attend an address by Netanyahu in an interview with CNN, accusing the Israeli leader of causing “the worst humanitarian disaster in modern history.”

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Sanders claimed that Israel is waging war against the “entire Palestinian people, women and children.”

“So why you would invite somebody who has done such horrific things to the Palestinian people is something that I think is a very bad idea,” Sanders said.

Hamas, which rules Gaza, launched the war with its Oct. 7 invasion of southern Israel, where the Palestinian terror group murdered 1,200 people and kidnapped over 250 others. Israel responded with a military campaign aimed at freeing the hostages and destroying Hamas.

Sanders wasn’t alone in opposing the idea of inviting Netanyahu to address Congress.

“I don’t think it’s a good time … let’s not complicate an already complicated situation,” Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) told Axios.

House Intelligence Committee member Jim Himes (D-CT) told the outlet that Netanyahu should focus on rescuing the hostages from Gaza, “not on charming legislators.”

Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) claimed that Netanyahu was “dividing this country … in a similar way he’s divided Israel, and I think that’s awfully dangerous.”

Phillips, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also dismissed any potential speech by Netanyahu as a “political gesture.”

Johnson first floated the idea of inviting Netanyahu to address Congress in March after Schumer held a speech on the Senate floor condemning the prime minister and calling for elections in Israel to replace him.

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To some observers, Schumer’s hesitance to sign on to the invitation signals a growing divide between the Democratic Party and Israel.

Schumer originally agreed to join Johnson’s invitation to Netanyahu earlier this month, but has not yet followed through.

In recent months, Democratic lawmakers have grown more critical of the Jewish state’s military response to the Hamas atrocities of Oct. 7.

Liberal lawmakers have placed pressure on party leadership to take a more adversarial approach to Israel, publicly calling for a “ceasefire” and suggesting that Israel has committed “genocide” against Palestinians.

Earlier this month, US President Joe Biden confirmed that his administration would stop providing certain weapons to Israel if the Jewish state decided to launch a major military operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, a step that many consider necessary to dismantle Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure.