Rivlin invited to address joint session of US Congress
President’s office says talks with US lawmakers have been underway for some time; unclear whether trip can take place by end of his term in July, due to COVID restrictions
President Reuven Rivlin has been in talks with US Congressional leadership about addressing a joint session of the legislature in Washington, his office said Thursday.
However, it was unclear whether the speech could be arranged before the end of Rivlin’s term on July 9 due to coronavirus restrictions limiting gatherings, the president’s office acknowledged.
Rivlin was invited by the leadership of both parties, according to the Ynet news site.
The office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declined a request for comment, while Senate Majority Leader and Senate Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy did not immediately respond.
Rivlin was in Paris Thursday, wrapping up a diplomatic trip to Europe with IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi that took him to Germany, Austria and France. Rivlin’s visit was focused on warning the European allies about Iran’s nuclear program and drumming up support for Israel in the face of the International Criminal Court’s looming war crimes investigation.
The last time an Israeli leader gave an address to a joint session of Congress was in 2015. Then-US House speaker John Boehner and Israeli ambassador to the US Ron Dermer concocted an invitation for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address US lawmakers behind the back of former president Barak Obama. The Israeli premier used the opportunity to lobby against the Iran nuclear deal that Obama ultimately succeeded in pushing through Congress.
Many leading Democrats still believe the speech caused significant damage to Israel’s relationship with the Democratic Party, shaking the bipartisan nature of ties between the two countries.
Netanyahu, however, looks back fondly on the speech and maintains that he did what was necessary to protect the State of Israel against the signing of an agreement with Iran, which he believed would pave the way for the Islamic Republic to obtain a nuclear weapon.
US President Joe Biden, who served as Obama’s vice president, is now seeking to return to that same nuclear deal, after his predecessor Donald Trump left the agreement in 2018. Netanyahu has warned that such a reentry would be a mistake.