Lawmaker Refuses To Attend Netanyahu’s Congressional Address

( — California Democratic Representative Ro Khanna announced that he will be joining the growing roster of Democrats who will be boycotting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress.

Khanna clarified that he would attend if it were going to be a discussion about how to end the war in Gaza, but he characterized the upcoming speech as “a one-way lecture.” Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders is also planning to boycott the event and has recently referred to Netanyahu as a war criminal. Sanders has also expressed outrage that congressional leaders invited him to speak at all.

Many of the Democratic party’s more progressive members see Prime Minister Netanyahu as an obstacle to ending the war. They have also criticized his decisions during the current conflict, in particular his lack of support for cease-fire agreements that did not include the full release of the hostages taken by Hamas on October 7. Many blame him for the humanitarian crisis in Palestine, saying that his actions have blocked aid from Palestinian civilians. Some Democrats have also expressed continuing anger over Netanyahu’s difficult relationship with former President Barack Obama.

While Khanna is open and clear about his reasons for skipping Netanyahu’s address, he has also called for civility among the others who are forgoing attendance. He pointed out that while they may disagree, Prime Minister Netanyahu is addressing Congress, and there should be decorum. Further, Khanna said that any lawmakers skipping the speech should be polite and not make “a big deal” out about it. Some Democrats have floated the idea of holding a competing event, such as a vigil for the Israelis still held hostage by Hamas or a meeting with the families of the American hostages.

While abstaining from attendance is an acceptable way to express disapproval, some are concerned that open disrespect towards the elected leaders of foreign governments could have repercussions. A profound schism within the U.S. government along party lines could create difficulties for the U.S. when working with allied countries like Israel. However, the ongoing conflict in Gaza has caused upheaval that has been felt around the world. Nations that have previously been friendly now have strained relations, and their enemies may be reaping benefits from the chaos. Khanna’s call for civility in the light of deep conflict is a reassuringly mature attitude in the current fractured political climate.

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