Johnson gives Schumer an ultimatum on Netanyahu

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Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) offered Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) an ultimatum this week: join his letter inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress, or the House will move ahead with an invitation on its own.

Johnson told reporters Tuesday that his office notified Schumer’s staff the day before that if the Senate leader does not sign the draft invitation for Netanyahu by Tuesday, he will proceed with inviting the Israeli prime minister to address just the House. The Speaker, however, noted that he would invite senators to attend the speech.

“My office told Senator Schumer’s office yesterday that he needed to sign the joint letter, and if not, we were gonna proceed and invite Netanyahu just to the House, and I’ll send individual invitations to senators,” Johnson said.

Asked when the deadline for Schumer is, Johnson responded: “Today.”

Schumer reiterated Tuesday — following Johnson’s comments — that he is open to hosting the Israeli leader at the Capitol, even after calling for new elections in the Middle Eastern country and declaring Netanyahu had “lost his way” in a speech on the Senate floor in March.

“Yes,” Schumer — the highest-ranking Jewish official in U.S. history — said when asked if he supports the idea of having Netanyahu address a joint meeting of Congress.

“I’m discussing that now with the Speaker of the House, and as I’ve always said, our relationship with Israel is ironclad and transcends any one prime minister or president,” he added.

Johnson’s deadline comes after Schumer’s office told The Hill earlier this month that the Senate leader “intends to join the invitation, the timing is being worked out.”

The statement followed comments from Johnson to The Hill that he sent Schumer a draft letter inviting Netanyahu to address Congress last month, which the Senate leader had not acted on.

The Speaker issued the ultimatum the same day the International Criminal Court (ICC) requested arrest warrants for a handful of Israeli and Hamas leaders amid their conflict, including Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

Both Johnson and Schumer slammed the move by the ICC, calling it “baseless” and “reprehensible,” respectively.

If Netanyahu’s address to Congress does pan out, it would likely provoke fury among liberals, who have slammed the conservative leader’s government and raised concerns about the mounting humanitarian deaths in the Gaza Strip amid Israel’s war against Hamas.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), for example, said the ICC was “right” to request arrest warrants, writing in a statement, “These arrest warrants may or may not be carried out, but it is imperative that the global community uphold international law.”

“Without these standards of decency and morality, this planet may rapidly descend into anarchy, never-ending wars, and barbarism,” he added.

The senator took direct aim at Netanyahu, arguing that the Israeli leader “has waged an unprecedented war of destruction against the entire Palestinian people.”

The speech would also make for an interesting moment in the relationship between Schumer and Netanyahu, after the Senate leader slammed Netanyahu in a floor speech and called for new elections in the country.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu has also weakened Israel’s political and moral fabric through his attempts to co-opt the judiciary. And he has shown zero interest in doing the courageous and visionary work required to pave the way for peace, even before this present conflict,” he said. “As a lifelong supporter of Israel, it has become clear to me: The Netanyahu coalition no longer fits the needs of Israel after October 7.”

Netanyahu at the time called Schumer’s remarks “totally inappropriate.”

Netanyahu traveled to the Capitol and addressed Congress in 2015, a speech that several Democrats skipped as a way to protest the Israeli leader. Netanyahu during the speech criticized then-President Obama over the Iran nuclear deal.

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