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Johnson may invite Netanyahu to address Congress after Schumer comments

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said Wednesday that he is considering inviting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress amid rising tensions between Democrats and the Israeli government leader — a sign of the partisanship edging into the Gaza war.

A source familiar with the matter said a range of options are being discussed for Netanyahu to speak with lawmakers, including a joint session of Congress. The prospect was brought up in the House GOP’s closed-door conference meeting Wednesday morning, the source said.

No arrangements have been made yet.

“It’s one of the things that we have in mind, and we may try to arrange for that,” Johnson told reporters when asked about inviting Netanyahu to address Congress. “I think it’s very important for us to show solidarity and support for Israel right now in their time of great struggle, and we certainly stand for that position and we’ll try to advance that in every way that we can.”

Johnson raised the possibility of a Netanyahu speech to Congress less than a week after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), a longtime advocate for Israel, blasted Netanyahu in a floor speech, arguing his leadership risked losing further U.S. support for his country. Schumer also called for new elections in Israel.

Republicans have ripped Schumer over his remarks, slamming them as unprecedented and wrong. Netanyahu is set to speak with Senate Republicans via video during their weekly lunch Wednesday.

While there has been a long tradition in Congress of bipartisan support for Israel, lawmakers on the left are increasingly critical of Netanyahu’s handling of the war in Gaza, which has left more than 30,0000 people in the territory dead.

Schumer has strongly backed Israel’s right to defend itself after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas left 1,200 dead in the country, and he notably did not call for a permanent cease-fire in his address in the Senate — a demand some liberals have been making.

But the Democratic leader was scathing in his assessment of Netanyahu.

Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in U.S. history, said Netanyahu has “lost his way,” citing the political and legal battles surrounding the prime minister. He argued Netanyahu’s handling of the war had lost Israel international support and risked doing further harm.

Netanyahu told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that Schumer’s comments were “totally inappropriate.”

Johnson said he had spoken with Netanyahu on Wednesday morning.

“I had a lengthy conversation this morning with Prime Minister Netanyahu and reiterated to him that House Republicans’ strong support for Israel and their efforts there, and expressed my strong disagreement with Leader Schumer about what he said last week,” he told reporters during a press conference.

“We think it is not only foolhardy, it’s dangerous for him to be trying to suggest how Israel should run its domestic affairs in the midst of their conflict,” he added on Schumer’s remarks. “So you’ll see the House Republicans continue to stand forward and reiterate our support for Israel at this very critical time.”

Johnson also commented on former President Trump’s comment earlier this week that any Jewish individual who votes for Democrats “hates their religion” and “hate[s] everything about Israel,” which have come under fire from Democrats and some Republicans.

Asked what he made of those remarks, Johnson suggested that Trump was speaking to the increased opposition Democrats have to the Israeli government and the humanitarian deaths in Gaza.

“I don’t speak for President Trump, but I understand the sentiment that he’s trying to express,” Johnson said.

He went on to cite the two votes to send aid to Israel, which a large number of Democrats opposed. In October, most Democrats voted against a $14.3 billion Israel aid package, voicing opposition to cuts to the IRS and the lack of Ukraine aid. It ultimately passed the House but did not move in the Senate.

In February, Democrats voted in large numbers against a stand-alone Israel aid bill, siding with their counterparts in the Senate who were working to consider a broader foreign aid bill that included aid for Ukraine. The bill failed on the floor, falling short of the two-thirds vote needed since leadership brought it up under the fast-track suspension of the rules process.

“I think people interpret that, you know, for what it is; the facts speak for themselves. I think you see the House Republicans and the Republican Party at large — and President Trump, for that matter — standing strong with Israel, and you see increasingly, an increasingly large number of Democrats and a big faction of the Democratic Party who are standing against Israel openly,” Johnson said.

“They’re saying the quiet parts out loud, and to us that’s alarming. I think it’s shameful, and I think that’s what President Trump’s referring to,” he added. “And you know, his language is his language, but I think that’s a sentiment that most of the American people understand and that’s how they interpreted.”

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