On Friday, the top four congressional leaders formally invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint meeting of Congress in an attempt to show bipartisan unity, amid heightened partisan tensions over the Israel-Hamas War.

In a letter to Netanyahu, signed by majority leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York), House Democratic leader Rep. Hakeem Jefferies (D-New York), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and House Speaker Rep. Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana), they wrote, “We join the State of Israel in your struggle against terror, especially as Hamas continues to hold American and Israeli citizens captive and its leaders jeopardize regional stability.”

“To build on our enduring relationship and to highlight America’s solidarity with Israel,” they added, “we invite you to share the Israeli government’s vision for defending democracy, combating terror and establishing a just and lasting peace in the region.”

The invitation marks the culmination of a weeks-long discussion between congressional leaders over whether the Israeli prime minister should be allowed to speak to lawmakers.

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Even before the official invitation was announced on Friday, the prospect of Netanyahu visiting Congress had already divided Democrats.

Tensions have escalated between the Biden administration and Netanyahu due to increased U.S. pressure for Israel to enhance protection for Palestinian civilians during the Gaza War. Many Democrats have criticized Netanyahu’s handling of the conflict, especially following his recent attack in Rafah.

In March, Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish official in U.S. history, urged Netanyahu to step down and called for new elections. He refused to let Netanyahu address Senate Democrats, arguing that it would not benefit Israel for their prime minister to address American lawmakers in a partisan manner.

In response, Netanyahu attacked Schumer during a closed-door virtual speech to Senate Republicans, who have consistently supported him throughout the Gaza War.

Amid widespread criticism of Netanyahu and his far-right government, particularly from Progressive Democrats, many House Democrats announced they would likely skip his speech to signal their opposition to the prime minister.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) announced plans to boycott Netanyahu’s speech, while former Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California) urged Schumer not to invite the prime minister.

“I think there’ll be a lot of people who wouldn’t want to go, just given the fact that he is pushing this war into a place that no one wants it to go into just to save his own butt, which makes Israel less safe and the region less safe,” said Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Florida), who signaled his plans to boycott the event.

Conversely, congressional Republicans have consistently supported Israel and Netanyahu, directing their criticisms at Biden and his handling of Israeli foreign relations during the ongoing war.

Johnson, the leading congressional Republican, initially proposed the invitation following Schumer’s controversial comments. He has been urging lawmakers for weeks to extend an invitation to Netanyahu, aiming to strengthen ties as many progressive Democrats continue to isolate the Israeli prime minister.

This would be Netanyahu’s fourth address to a joint meeting of Congress. His last appearance was in 2015, during which he criticized former President Barack Obama‘s nuclear agreement policies with Iran, drawing disapproval from numerous congressional Democrats.

No official date has been set for his arrival, which is atypical for an invitation to a foreign leader. However, it is anticipated to occur within the next eight weeks or shortly after the August recess.

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