Columnist Richard Fein: Netanyahu addressing Congress would be an insult to America

Richard Fein

Richard Fein


Published: 06-23-2024 10:58 AM

The Congress of the United States has invited Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin ( Bibi) Netanyahu to speak to a joint session next month. Although the invitation was initiated by Republicans, the two top congressional Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, signed off on it. Here is an abbreviated list of reasons why Netanyahu should not be given that honor.

Criminal: The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor has requested that a criminal arrest warrant be issued against Netanyahu. Among the charges: ” Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare ...” and “Other inhumane acts a crimes against humanity … ” If the ICC proceeds to issue the arrest warrant it will be a profound embarrassment for our country to have an internationally sought criminal address our Congress.

Netanyahu’s expressed policy is to expand Jewish settlements in the West Bank and perhaps annex it. These are violations of international law.

Hamas supporter: Netanyahu is the best Israeli prime minister Hamas ever had. According to Yuval Diskin, former head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service “if we look at it over the years, one of the main people strengthening Hamas has been Bibi Netanyahu, since his first term as prime minister.” Khaled Elginy of the Middle East Institute in Washington has explained why: “Hamas became useful to Netanyahu as a way to ensure that a cohesive Palestinian leadership did not emerge, and therefore there couldn’t be a Palestinian state … ”

Netanyahu is helping Hamas by weakening Israel’s security. Israel is now increasingly isolated internationally because of the way it is conducting the Gaza war. Israel once enjoyed bi-partisan support in the U.S. Now Israel is a polarizing issue especially among liberal/progressive Democrats and younger voters.

No friend of peace

Netanyahu opposes any resolution of the Israel/Palestine conflict that would include the establishment of an independent Palestinian State.

President Biden was asked by Time magazine if Netanyahu is prolonging the Gaza war for political motivations . In response, Biden said. “There is every reason for people to draw that conclusion”.

Undermining Israel’s democracy and civil liberties

Prior to the current war Netanyahu attempted to overthrow Israel’s judicial system by eliminating a critical element of judicial review called the “reasonability standard.” Had he been successful his coalition majority in the Knesset (Parliament) would have been able to void the laws it didn’t like including those for which Netanyahu has been indicted. Netanyahu also would have been given a stronger hand in picking judges.

ACRI, an Israeli civil liberties organization, issued a report this past April. It said that “The Knesset passed a law criminalizing the continual consumption of Hamas and ISIS content, punishable by up to one year in prison. This law penalizes individuals merely for passively viewing such content, even without any active participation, based on the charge that the posts could incite violence.”

Even the popular Israeli Arab singer Dalal Abu Amneh was arrested for “incitement” over a Facebook post apparently referencing Gaza that included a Palestinian flag. Thankfully in her case the charges were dropped. Other Israelis have experienced job terminations and disciplinary actions at universities because of social media posts regarding the Gaza war.

Protests against government policies in the Gaza war have bee suppressed by the police, including arbitrary arrests. Some protests have been met with the use of water cannon and mounted police.

What I want President Biden to do

Publicly announce that Vice-President Kamala Harris will not be present at the joint session. There is a precedent. In 2015, then vice president Biden went on an overseas mission that coincided with Netanyahu’s speech to Congress that year.

Place under sanction Minister of Security Ben-Givir who has openly called for the “voluntary emigration” (i.e. expulsion) of Gazans and return of settlers to that that area. Likewise, sanction Finance Minister Smotrich who has called for the annexation of the West Bank and the expulsion or utter subjugation of its Palestinians.

West Bank settlers have killed dozens of Palestinians and expelled people from their homes . Some of the attacks have been carried out with the passive support of Israel’s police and the army. The president should sanction all West Bank settlers who commit acts of violence against Palestinians.

When the president announces that he has set a red line, as in the case of Rafah, he must enforce it. To that end curtailing the supply of US-made offensive weapons to Israel should be a serious option.

Support Israel’s security but not Netanyahu’s unacceptable policies.

The United States has historically been Israel’s best friend based in part on ” shared values.” It is clear that Netanyahu’s values are not America’s. Allowing him to address a joint session of Congress is not an act of friendship. It is an insult to our country and the values it stands for.

Richard Fein holds a master of arts degree in political science and an MBA in economics. He can be reached at