PMO: Congress invite shows bipartisan support for Israel

Netanyahu prepares to take the podium for long-awaited address; speech is only the second time an Israeli PM has spoken to Congress twice; J'lem officials deny PM is trying to bypass Obama.

PM Netanyahu addresses congress in 1996 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
PM Netanyahu addresses congress in 1996 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's invitation to address a joint session of the US Congress Tuesday – an invitation extended to few foreign leaders – reflects the wide bipartisan support for Israel in Congress and among the American public, sources in the Prime Minister's Office said.
Netanyahu will “break new ground” in his much-anticipated speech Tuesday to a special joint session of Congress, senior Israeli officials said.
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In addition to spelling out what he views as the fundamentals for a future peace deal with the Palestinians, Netanyahu is also expected to focus on Iran and the upheaval in the Arab world.
The speech is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Israel time.
This will be the second time Netanyahu addresses a joint session of Congress; the first came during his first tenure in 1996. Netanyahu is the sixth Israeli prime minister to receive the honor.
He joins former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and former South African president nelson Mandela as the only other foreign leaders to address Congress two times. Winston Churchill had the honor three times.
Sources close to Netanyahu rejected charges that by addressing Congress, the prime minister was attempting to bypass US President Barack Obama and take Israel’s case to the country’s lawmakers, since they are more amenable to Netanyahu and Israel than the president.
“This has nothing to do with politics,” one Israeli official said. “He is not trying to play on the US political field.”
Perhaps an indication that Netanyahu does not want to appear to be wading into American politics is the fact that although he is meeting the Senate and House leaders from both parties, he did not intend during this trip to meet any of the Republican 2012 presidential hopefuls.
The address to Congress, which Netanyahu has been working on for days with his senior adviser Ron Dermer, comes about 12 hours after Netanyahu gave a speech to over 10,000 delegates to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.