Middle east

Netanyahu Will Not Address Congress Amid Rising Biden Pressures

The Israeli Prime Minister faces severe criticism from some Democratic lawmakers over the number of civilian casualties in the ongoing war in Gaza

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied on Tuesday reports from American media about his intention to address the US Congress on June 13, amid rising pressures on him to agree to a ceasefire in Gaza.

Netanyahu‘s office told Israeli media that the date for his speech to Congress “has not been finalized,” but it will not be on June 13 due to a conflict with a Jewish holiday.

The American sites “Politico” and “Punchbowl News,” specializing in Washington politics, had announced this date.

Speculation about the visit comes as Netanyahu faces severe criticism over the number of civilian casualties in the ongoing war in Gaza, escalating tensions with President Joe Biden‘s administration.

On Friday, Biden presented what he described as an Israeli plan to end the bloody conflict in Gaza in three phases: a ceasefire, the release of all hostages, and the reconstruction of the destroyed Palestinian territories without Hamas in power.

Netanyahu‘s office confirmed that the war sparked by the Hamas attack on October 7 will continue until all of Israel’s “goals” are achieved, including the destruction of Hamas‘s military capabilities.

Leaders of both the Democratic and Republican parties in the US House and Senate invited Netanyahu last week to deliver a speech before a joint session of Congress, expressing their solidarity with Israel “against terrorism, especially as Hamas continues to hold American and Israeli citizens hostage.”

In March, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer urged Israel to hold new elections, a rare example of strong American criticism of Israel’s handling of the war in Gaza.

Schumer’s position, the highest elected Jewish official in US history, comes as the White House is concerned about the rising number of civilian casualties in this war triggered by the October 7 attacks on Israel.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who votes with the Democrats, denounced Netanyahu and his handling of the military response to the Hamas attack, pledging not to attend the right-wing Israeli leader’s speech.

Sanders said in a statement over the weekend, “It is a very sad day for our country that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is invited – by leaders of both parties – to deliver a speech before a joint session of the US Congress.”

He added, “Israel, of course, has the right to defend itself against the horrific terrorist attack launched by Hamas on October 7, but it does not have, and should not have, the right to wage war against the entire Palestinian people,” calling Netanyahu a “war criminal.”

The war broke out on October 7 following a Hamas attack on Israel, killing 1,189 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli data.

During the attack, 252 hostages were captured and taken to Gaza. 120 hostages remain in the sector, including 41 who were killed, according to the Israeli army.

Israel responded by vowing to “destroy” Hamas and has since been conducting a devastating bombing campaign on the Gaza Strip, accompanied by ground operations, resulting in 36,439 deaths, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run Ministry of Health.

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