In a show of solidarity with the Jewish state on its 75th anniversary, US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy will arrive in Israel Sunday at the helm of a 19-member bipartisan congressional delegation, in advance of his historic address to the Knesset on Monday.
The Republican politician from California is only the second House speaker in Israel’s history to speak to the Knesset's plenum after Newt Gingrich did so in 1998.
“The speaker is coming to Israel to celebrate 75 years of Israeli independence and reaffirm the special bond between our two nations,” a spokesperson from McCarthy’s office said.
“It is the country that he has visited more than any other and so his goal here is not just to celebrate the first incredible 75 years but also to look forward to what the next 75 years can bring,” the spokesperson said.
On its way to Israel the delegation visited Jordan, where McCarthy met with King Abdullah and Crown Prince Al Hussein. It is McCarthy’s first trip abroad since becoming speaker in January of this year.
The congressman will come to Israel at a time of increasing tension between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and the Biden administration, which oppose the judicial overhaul plan, fearing it weakens Israel’s democracy.
US President Joe Biden has to date refused to invite Netanyahu to the White House in the aftermath of his return to power at the end of December, a move which traditionally occurs after an Israeli prime minister enters office.
In the interim, however, major US officials have visited Israel – such as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, as well as senior Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, who is the House minority leader, and Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
All of them have spoken of the strength of the US-Israel relationship. This trip was instigated by an invitation from Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana (Likud) to underscore the depth of the US-Israel bond. Last month McCarthy issued a statement specifically in support of Netanyahu.
Having friends at both sides of the aisle
In an interview with NBC published on Friday, Netanyahu spoke of his strong ties with both Republicans and Democrats.
He referenced Biden, former US president Donald Trump and DeSantis as “great friends of Israel,” noting that the Jewish state was lucky to have such friends on both side of the aisle in the US.
Netanyahu lauded Trump for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, relocating the US embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing Israel sovereignty over the Golan Heights and exiting the 2015 Iran deal.
In speaking of Biden, Netanyahu referred to him as “personal friend for 40 years” noting that the disagreement between them was akin to that of family members.
He also defended the judicial reform, explaining that it would strengthen democracy.
“The fact that we have excessive power in the judiciary does not mean that we have to have excessive power in the parliament,” Netanyahu said. He added that he was committed to finding a consensus between the coalition and the opposition when it came to the reform.
“We are working on it. I hope to achieve it,” Netanyahu said.