Bernie Sanders denies Netanyahu invitation, won't attend 'war criminal' speech

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said he will not attend Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's remarks during 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 of 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 before Congress on Friday in a letter signed by Republican and Democratic leaders in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

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Senator Bernie Sanders said he will not attend Benjamin Netanyahu's joint speech to Congress. (Getty Images)

The formal letter came after Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., signaled his intention to extend the invitation by several weeks. It was initially uncertain whether Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer DY would join, especially after he called on Israel to hold new wartime elections to replace Netanyahu. However, his signature eventually appeared on the invitation.

“Benjamin Netanyahu is a war criminal. He should not be invited to address a joint meeting of Congress. I certainly won't be there,” Sanders said in the conclusion of his lengthy statement. He referred to the International Criminal Court's (ICC) recent requests to obtain arrest warrants against Netanyahu and other Israeli and Hamas leaders for “war crimes.”

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Mike Johnson, Joe Biden, Benjamin Netanyahu

Johnson led the effort to invite Netanyahu. (Getty Images)

“The ICC is right,” Sanders said.

Sanders is Jewish but has previously said 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 who seek our lives to the representatives of the American people and the whole world.”

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Bernie Sanders' White House

Sanders was an outspoken critic of Israel. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

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

President Biden recently approved a ceasefire proposed by Israel and urged Hamas leaders to accept it. He called for an end to the war, claiming that “Hamas is no longer capable of carrying out another October 7 at this point.”

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Biden and Netanyahu

Biden and Netanyahu may not be on the same page on a proposed deal. ((Fox News/Getty Images))

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

According to Netanyahu's office: “The exact outline that Israel proposes, including the conditional transition between the phases, allows Israel to uphold these principles.”

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

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