Netanyahu set to address senate Republicans in video call as tensions with Biden administration mount

Benjamin Netanyahu is set to address Republican senators via video call on Wednesday afternoon, as tensions continue to mount between the Israeli prime minister and the Biden administration.

Mr Netanyahu is joining the lawmakers’ weekly policy lunch. Mr Netanyahu requested to speak with Senate Democrats as well, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer declined, Punchbowl News reports.

Congressional Republicans have, by-and-large, been steadfast allies in the push to support Israel and its campaign in Gaza. Ahead of the call with Mr Netanyahu, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell condemned the Democratic response to the war.

“As much as some of our colleagues might like them to be, Democrats’ egregious and hypocritical attempts to influence Israeli domestic politics aren’t some simple or narrow critique of a particular prime minister,” Mr McConnell said.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden is increasingly criticising the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) planned invasion into the southern city of Rafah, where some 1.4 million Palestinians are sheltering after being displaced from northern Gaza.

Mr Netanyahu approved a plan for the assault over the weekend. Then, on Monday the prime minister agreed to send officials to Washington DC to discuss his Rafah strategy as US officials — including Mr Biden and White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan — say the US would not support the offensive “without a credible plan” from the IDF.

Mr Netanyahu’s call with Republican senators also comes just days after Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer — America’s highest-ranking Jewish official — gave a speech calling for new elections in Israel.

“The Netanyahu coalition no longer fits the needs of Israel,” Mr Schumer said on the Senate floor. “The Israeli people are being stifled right now by a governing vision that is stuck in the past.”

Mr Biden praised the speech as Republicans and even some Democrats, including Senator John Fetterman, spoke out against Mr Schumer.

“He made a good speech, and I think he expressed serious concern shared not only by him, but by many Americans,” the president said over the weekend.

Some Democrats have even entirely rejected US aid to Israel, calling it a breach of the law.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with Republican Senators via video call on Wednesday (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with Republican Senators via video call on Wednesday (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Former Vermont senator Patrick Leahy told The Independent earlier this month that the US is breaking its own laws by sending aid to Israel on account of “the number of civilians who are being injured or killed by US paid armaments”.

Mr Leahy is best known for championing his namesake Leahy Law, which refers to two statutory provisions that prevent the federal government from using funds to assist foreign governments when there is credible information that they have committed “gross violations of human rights”..

Senator Peter Welch of Vermont told The Independent last week that he agrees with his predecessor on the matter.

“The reality is, whatever legitimate military reasons [Israel has], they have also a humanitarian responsibility under international law to allow people to be fed,” Mr Welch told The Independent.

The Hamas-run health ministry has said that more than 31,000 Palestinians have been killed since October in Israel’s ongoing military operations in Gaza. The conflict began 7 October, when Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel, killing more than 1,200 people and taking another 250 hostage.

Meanwhile, the United Nations, the European Union and several international aid agencies are all warning of an imminent, widespread famine in Gaza.