‘I think this is wrong’: Pelosi comes out against Netanyahu’s Congress invite

Democratic former House speaker says PM’s planned address next month will sow more discontent among Americans, suggests he should resign before then

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat-California, at the Capitol in Washington, on April 19, 2023. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat-California, at the Capitol in Washington, on April 19, 2023. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Former speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi told CNN on Friday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s invitation to address Congress in July is “wrong” and “sad,” while accusing the Israeli leader of being an obstacle to improving the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.

Asked whether she would have extended the invitation if she were still speaker of the House, Pelosi replied, “Absolutely not,” saying that it would “invite more of what we’ve seen regarding discontent among our people.”

“Let’s try to have a two-state solution to make peace in the region rather than coming to the Capitol to draw protesters,” she said, referring to anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian rallies that have been held across the US, and in particular on college campuses.

The Democrat clarified that her objection to Netanyahu’s address to Congress did not stem from negative feelings toward Israel, saying that she still loved the country and that her disapproval of Netanyahu did not change that.

But Pelosi questioned whether Netanyahu would even still be prime minister by July 24 when he is scheduled to deliver his address.

“What’s happening? Everything I read is that they’re unhappy about this or unhappy about that. Not just [war cabinet minister] Benny [Gantz, who was expected to withdraw from the coalition on Saturday night but postponed his statement], but other members of his cabinet,” she said, referencing squabbles within Netanyahu’s coalition.

Netanyahu has been faced with calls for his resignation from the opposition as well as Gantz’s National Unity party, which entered the coalition to form an “emergency government” at the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza. At the end of May, National Unity submitted a bill to dissolve the government and head to early elections.

Pelosi said she wished Netanyahu “would be a statesman and do what is right for Israel,” apparently suggesting he should resign.

“We all love Israel, October 7 was terrible, Hamas is a terrorist organization, they are dedicated to the destruction of Israel,” Pelosi said.

“The hostages are not free. The people of Gaza are suffering, we need to help them and not have [Netanyahu] stand in the way for such a long time,” she continued.

Pelosi noted that she had opposed Netanyahu’s previous speech to Congress as well.

“Frankly, I didn’t approve of his being invited the last time. But the speaker on his own invited him without consulting the rest of the leadership,” she added, referring to Netanyahu’s address to Congress in 2015, which was organized by Republican Congressional leaders behind the back of then-president Barack Obama for the Israeli premier to lobby against the nuclear deal that Washington wound up signing with Iran later that year.

Pelosi added that Netanyahu’s address at the time was “completely inappropriate.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks against the US-led international nuclear deal with Iran in 2015 before a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 3, 2015. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

The US has maintained its support for Israel’s right to self-defense since October 7, when Hamas launched an unprecedented cross-border attack on Israel, in which terrorists killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped 251 as hostages to Gaza.

Last week, Netanyahu received a formal invitation to address Congress.

It was initially reported that the speech would take place on June 13 but the premier’s office nixed the idea as it is the second day of the Shavuot holiday abroad.

Spearheaded by Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson, the invitation was issued after weeks of delay caused by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who gave a speech on the Senate floor in March calling for early elections in Israel to replace Netanyahu. Schumer ultimately acquiesced, saying he was prepared to cooperate with a Netanyahu address as long as it was done in a bipartisan manner.

But Schumer — the highest-ranking Jewish lawmaker in US history — ultimately acquiesced to the Republican initiative, ostensibly not wanting to be seen as obstructionist, particularly given his longstanding support for Israel.

“Chuck is a strong supporter of Israel, as am I,” Pelosi told CNN. “I respect his view, I don’t necessarily share it.”

“And because I don’t support Netanyahu doesn’t mean I don’t support Israel,” she noted.

US lawmakers have set July 24 as the date for Netanyahu’s address to Congress.

Nearly 60 Democrats boycotted Netanyahu’s last joint session address in 2015. A much larger number of Democrats will likely boycott Netanyahu’s speech in July, with the war in Gaza becoming increasingly unpopular among progressives.

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