House speaker says Biden should invite Israeli PM to White House

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US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy said on Monday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should be invited to the White House for an official visit following months without an invitation from Washington.

“I know we've had a lot of different leaders coming to America,” McCarthy, who is leading a bi-partisan delegation to Israel, told a press conference in Jerusalem.

“I expect the White House to invite the prime minister over for a meeting, especially with the 75th anniversary.”

President Joe Biden has so far avoided an acrimonious public confrontation with Netanyahu, while trying to make clear he opposes his government's plans which would strip Israel's highest court of much of its power.

Critics say the overhaul would remove checks on government activity while proponents say it restores balance to the branches of Israeli government. The planned legislation has propelled Israel into a national crisis with massive protests.

Netanyahu and his far-right coalition entered government after a sweeping win the November elections.

Biden has yet to invite the prime minister for an official visit, which is rare for an Israeli head of state as most new Israeli leaders had met the president by this point in their premierships, according to a Reuters review of official visits going back to the late 1970s.

In the last few months, Biden and senior members of his team have also expressed alarm about Israeli plans for settlement expansion on the West Bank and about violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

Netanyahu has long had close ties to the U.S. Republican Party, at times seeming to work with them more than Democrats. For example, in 2015, he visited Washington to address Congress after an invitation from Republicans, who did not consult Democrats or the then-Democratic President Barack Obama, for whom Biden served as Vice President, violating long-standing custom.

In an interview with the Israel Hayom newspaper on Sunday, McCarthy said that if the president does not invite Netanyahu to the White House, the speaker will invite him to Washington for his own visit.

“He's a dear friend, as a prime minister of a country that we have our closest ties with,” McCarthy told Israel Hayom.

McCarthy also made clear on Monday that Israel's president, which is largely a ceremonial role, will be visiting the White House very soon.

“I know the President Herzog will be coming soon for a joint session,” McCarthy said.

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