Bernie Sanders blasts Netanyahu invite to Congress, refuses to attend speech by 'war criminal'

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said he will not attend remarks by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a joint session of Congress, calling him a “war criminal.”

“It is a very sad day for our country that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been invited – by leaders from both parties – to address a joint meeting of the United States Congress,” Sanders said in a statement on Saturday. 

Netanyahu was officially invited to speak to Congress on Friday in a letter signed by the Republican and Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate. 

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The formal letter came after Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., had made his intention to extend the invite clear for several weeks. It wasn’t initially certain whether Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., would sign on, especially after calling on Israel to hold new elections during wartime to replace Netanyahu. However, his signature ultimately appeared on the invitation.

“Benjamin Netanyahu is a war criminal. He should not be invited to address a joint meeting of Congress. I certainly will not attend,” Sanders said in the conclusion of his lengthy statement. He referenced the recent requests from the International Criminal Court (ICC) seeking warrants against Netanyahu and other Israeli and Hamas leaders for “war crimes.”

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“The ICC is right,” Sanders said. 

Sanders is Jewish but has previously said that he is no longer involved in organized religion. 

After receiving the invitation, Netanyahu said in a statement, “I am excited to represent Israel before both houses of Congress and to present the truth about our just war against those seeking our lives to the representatives of the American people and the entire world.”

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His speech will make Netanyahu the first head of state in the world to address both houses of Congress on four different occasions. 

President Biden recently endorsed an Israeli-proposed ceasefire deal, urging Hamas’ leaders to accept it. He called for an end to the war and claimed that “at this point, Hamas is no longer capable of carrying out another October 7.”

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The deal on the table is understood to include the release of hostages as well as a lasting ceasefire. It’s not clear whether Biden and Netanyahu are on the same page, as the prime minister released a statement following Biden’s remarks, claiming that Israel is still committed to “the elimination of Hamas’ military and governmental capabilities,” in addition to bringing home all hostages. 

According to Netanyahu’s office, “The exact outline proposed by Israel, including the conditional transition between the stages, allows Israel to maintain these principles.”

Fox News’ Yael Rotem-Kuriel contributed to this report. 

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