JERUSALEM (Reuters) -The U.S. should invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House for an official visit, U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy said on Monday, as a customary invitation has not been extended in the five months since Netanyahu’s election.
“I expect the White House to invite the prime minister over for a meeting, especially with the 75th anniversary,” McCarthy, who is leading a bipartisan delegation to Israel, told a press conference in Jerusalem, referring to Israel’s marking the 75th anniversary of its independence this year.
Netanyahu and his far-right coalition entered government after a sweeping win in November elections. Most prior Israeli leaders met the U.S. president by this point in their tenure, according to a Reuters review of official visits dating to the late 1970s.
President Joe Biden has sought to make clear he opposes Netanyahu government plans that would strip Israel’s highest court of much of its power, but Biden has taken care to avoid an acrimonious public confrontation.
The planned legislation has propelled Israel into a national crisis with massive protests.
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.
The Biden administration was aware of McCarthy’s comments, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby (NYSE:KEX) told reporters on Monday, but a visit by Netanyahu had not yet been scheduled.
“Israeli leaders have a long tradition of visiting Washington. President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu have known each other for a long, long time. I expect the prime minister will visit at some point,” Kirby said.
Netanyahu has long had close ties with the U.S. Republican Party, at times seeming to work with them more than Democrats. For example, he visited Washington in 2015 to address Congress after an invitation from Republicans, who did not consult Democrats or 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 (Isaac) Herzog will be coming soon for a joint session,” McCarthy said.
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