Prominent Israelis call on Congress to rescind Netanyahu invitation

A group of prominent Israelis is urging congressional leaders to revoke the invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint meeting of Congress, calling it a “terrible mistake.”

In an op-ed published Wednesday in The New York Times, six individuals from different areas of Israeli society argued an appearance by Netanyahu will “not represent” the state of Israel and its citizens, but will “reward his scandalous and destructive conduct.”

“We come from a variety of areas of Israeli society: science, technology, politics, defense, law and culture,” the op-ed stated. “We are thus in a good position to assess the overall effect of Mr. Netanyahu’s government, and like many, we believe that he is driving Israel downhill at an alarming speed, to the extent that we may eventually lose the country we love.”

“Giving Mr. Netanyahu the stage in Washington will all but dismiss the rage and pain of his people, as expressed in the demonstrations throughout the country. American lawmakers should not let that happen. They should ask Mr. Netanyahu to stay home,” the authors wrote.

Netanyahu is slated to deliver an address to a joint meeting of the Senate and House on July 24. The invitation has already spurred controversy on Capitol Hill, where a number of Democratic lawmakers have said they plan to snub Netanyahu’s speech in protest of his handling of the Hamas war in Gaza.

The authors of the op-ed said Netanyahu has “failed” to present a plan to end the war in Gaza or secure the freedom of the remaining hostages, who were kidnapped by Hamas during the group’s Oct. 7 assault against southern Israel. About 1,200 people died and 250 were taken hostage.

“At the very least, an invitation to address Congress should have been contingent upon resolving these two issues and, in addition, calling for new elections in Israel,” the op-ed stated. “Inviting Mr. Netanyahu will reward his contempt for U.S. efforts to establish a peace plan, allow more aid to the beleaguered people of Gaza and do a better job of sparing civilians.”

The Biden administration has spent weeks trying to get both Israel and Hamas to agree to a three-phased cease-fire deal that would immediately include at least a six-week pause in fighting in Gaza, where more than 37,000 Palestinians have died, per the Gaza Health Ministry.

Netanyahu has rejected the Biden administration’s efforts to establish a peacekeeping force in Gaza, the op-ed claimed, which could usher in a “far broader regional alliance” that would benefit both Israel and the United States.

The authors alleged many Israelis believe Netanyahu intentionally blocked proposed deals with Hamas that would have released the hostages in order to continue the war and “avoid the inevitable political reckoning he will face once it ends.”

“That’s where Mr. Netanyahu’s speech to Congress fits in with his political needs. No doubt it will be carefully stage-managed to prop up his shaky hold on power and allow him to boast to his constituents about America’s so-called support for his failed policies,” the authors wrote.

“His supporters in Israel will be emboldened by his appearance in Congress to insist that the war continue, which will further distance any deal to secure the release of the hostages, including several U.S. citizens,” the piece continued.

The op-ed also pointed to Netanyahu’s backtracking last October, when he blamed his intelligence officials for not warning him ahead of the Oct. 7 attacks before apologizing just 10 hours later. The authors said Netanyahu has yet to announce the establishment of a state commission inquiry, led by a Supreme Court judge to investigate what they described as a “fiasco.”

Netanyahu faces increased pressure from those within Israel and from foreign leaders who believe the Israeli military has not taken the necessary precautions to prevent civilian deaths in Gaza. Polling shows the majority of Israelis believe the country should hold early elections rather than wait until the end of the government term in 2026.

The Times op-ed was written by David Harel, the president of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities; Tamir Pardo, the former director of Israel’s foreign intelligence service, Mossad; Talia Sasson, the former director of the special tasks department in Israel’s State Attorney’s Office; Ehud Barak, a former prime minister of Israel; Aaron Ciechanover, winner of the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2004; and David Grossman, a novelist and essayist.

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