At a time when relations between the Israeli government and Democratic President Joe Biden are tense, the U.S. House speaker was given the unusual opportunity to address Israel’s parliament on Monday.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Speaker Kevin McCarthy presented the address as a gesture to bipartisan U.S. support for Israel as it celebrates 75 years since its founding.
Critics claim that McCarthy’s platform is a direct jab at Biden because he is the second House speaker to address the Knesset, after Newt Gingrich in 1998.
Standing ovations and frequent applause met McCarthy’s speech to the Knesset as members reconvened after a one-month break. The conflict over a contentious scheme, backed by the, is anticipated to restart.
Israelis disagreed with the plan, and Biden issued a rare public censure. Amid the hostilities, Biden has thus far declined to extend Netanyahu’s customary invitation to the White House following his electoral victory late last year.
McCarthy threw the gauntlet to Biden on Monday, saying he anticipates the White House “to invite the prime minister over for a meeting, especially with Israel’s 75th anniversary” of independence. If Biden doesn’t, he threatened to invite Netanyahu to address Congress.
McCarthy’s trip to Israel was yet another illustration of how Israel has gradually evolved from a nonpartisan topic to a contentious one in American politics.
The pattern dates back more than ten years when Netanyahu started outspokenly supporting Republicans over Democrats.
Likewise, some younger progressive Democrats have become increasingly critical of Israeli policies, including the treatment of Palestinians.
McCarthy spoke to the Knesset as both Republicans and Democrats were preparing for the presidential primary season.
Republicans want to position themselves as Israel’s best ally in the eyes of Americans, particularly evangelical Christians.
Before the Knesset address, McCarthy and Netanyahu had a face-to-face meeting, and the Republican praised Netanyahu, saying that his “leadership, character, and courage” serve as an example for Americans.
The Californian vowed continuous support for security assistance and stated that the countries must “remain resolute in our commitment that Iran will never acquire a nuclear weapon.” He added that the U.S. “cherishes its unbreakable bond” with Israel.
Under heavy pressure that included big weekly protests, a labor strike, and threats from military reservists to stop reporting for duty, Netanyahu had halted plans for a judicial overhaul before the parliament’s break.
In response, Biden stated that Netanyahu “cannot continue down this road.”
Although Netanyahu and Biden have been friends for many years, their friendship has deteriorated since Netanyahu’s late-year return to office following a brief stint as the opposition leader.
The Netanyahu cabinet, comprised of ultranationalists formerly on the periphery of Israeli politics but now hold top positions handling the Palestinians and other delicate matters, has drawn the ire of the Biden administration.
"L'histoire d'Israël est une histoire de gens qui ont fait fleurir le désert et leur économie, une histoire d'espoir qui continue d'inspirer des millions de personnes à travers le monde."
Discours de Kevin McCarthy, président de la chambre des représentants des États-Unis pic.twitter.com/D8zdwz86zk
— i24NEWS Français (@i24NEWS_FR) May 1, 2023