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Speaker Johnson moving ahead on Netanyahu invite to address Congress in wake of possible ICC warrant

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(WASHINGTON) — House Speaker Mike Johnson told reporters Tuesday that he’s moving ahead with an invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress despite an International Criminal Court prosecutor saying he would apply for a warrant to arrest Netanyahu for war crimes.

Johnson said that an invitation hasn’t been sent out yet because he was awaiting word from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to join the invitation.

Schumer told reporters Tuesday he is open to the idea.

“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,” Schumer said.

Johnson said that if Schumer did not agree to sign the letter, “We were going to proceed and invite Netanyahu just to the House.”

The speaker, who has been a staunch supporter of Netanyahu, first floated the idea of inviting the prime minister to Congress in March.

It was around this time that Schumer called for new elections in Israel calling Netanyahu an “obstacle to peace.”

“I will always respect his extraordinary bravery for Israel on the battlefield as a younger man. I believe in his heart his highest priority is the security of Israel,” Schumer said on the Senate floor on March 14. “However, I also believe Prime Minister Netanyahu has lost his way by allowing his political survival to take precedence over the best interests of Israel.”

Netanyahu last addressed Congress in March 2015.

Johnson’s plan comes on the heels of the ICC prosecutor’s announcement Monday that he planned to seek warrants against the prime minister, other Israeli leaders and Hamas leaders.

ICC prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan alleged the Israeli leaders bear “criminal responsibility” for “war crimes and crimes against humanity” in Gaza through the starvation of civilians, willfully causing great suffering and other “inhumane acts.”

Netanyahu told ABC’s “Good Morning America” Tuesday that the ICC’s plan was “absurd” and a “hit job.”

President Joe Biden called the prosecutor’s decision to seek arrest warrants for the Israeli leaders “outrageous.”

While many members of Congress also echoed this statement, some Democrats were wary of inviting Netanyahu to Washington.

Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin warned that if Netanyahu addresses a joint session of Congress, he’d help the ICC serve the warrant to Netanyahu in the House chamber.

“If Netanyahu comes to address Congress, I would be more than glad to show the ICC the way to the House floor to issue that warrant,” Pocan posted on X Monday. “Ditto for Hamas leader. Ceasefire. No offensive weapons. Food, water, & medicine must get through.”

The U.S. and Israel are not signatories to the Rome Statute, which institutionalized the international court and empowers it to prosecute individuals for war crimes. Unlike other countries that are signatories, the U.S. would not be obligated to arrest Netanyahu should he travel to Washington.

Johnson flatly dismissed Pocan’s warning shot as “patently absurd.”

In the meantime, the speaker is considering legislation to respond to the ICC’s plan with possible sanctions.

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