Apr 4, 2023 - World

McCarthy and Jeffries expected to make separate trips to Israel this month

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 7. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) are expected to visit Israel on separate trips later this month, according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

Why it matters: The visits by Republican and Democratic congressional leaders will take place amid tensions between President Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the Israeli government's judicial overhaul plan and its policies toward the Palestinians.

  • Israel's governing coalition and the opposition are also holding talks on a possible compromise deal on judicial reforms ahead of the new Knesset session, which starts on May 1.

Details: Jeffries is expected to arrive in Israel on April 22 for a three-day visit, according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry. His office declined to comment.

  • McCarthy is expected to arrive in Israel on April 30 and leave on May 2, the Israeli Foreign Ministry official visits schedule states. McCarthy’s office sent an invitation to Republican and Democratic members of the House to join him on his trip.
  • According to the invitation obtained by Axios, McCarthy will leave on April 28 and visit Jordan before arriving in Israel. Lawmakers in both parties received invitations and plan to attend, according to congressional aides.
  • The invitation said that the delegation will observe the 75th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel and meet with Israeli government officials.

Catch up quick: Netanyahu last week announced he was suspending the judicial overhaul legislation until the next Knesset session in order to give a chance for dialogue with the opposition.

  • Netanyahu’s announcement came a day after he fired Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who warned that the judicial overhaul would pose a threat to national security if it wasn't halted.
  • Netanyahu’s decision to fire Gallant led to spontaneous demonstrations across the country and a general strike by the workers' unions, which called for the legislation to be suspended.

The U.S. also put significant pressure on Netanyahu to stop the legislation, including via a strong private message from Biden, as Axios previously reported.

  • Biden continued that pressure even after Netanyahu suspended the legislation, saying said the Israeli prime minister should “walk away” from the plan completely and stressing that Netanyahu won’t be invited to the White House in the near future.
  • Despite the firing, Gallant remains defense minister. On Monday — eight days after the initial announcement — Netanyahu’s aides told reporters that “due to the security situation” in the country, the prime minister decided to suspend the firing of Gallant. They added that Netanyahu "will deal with the issue at a later stage."

What they're saying: McCarthy last week issued a statement in support of Netanyahu, calling him “an Israeli patriot” and “a great friend of the US."

  • The speaker didn’t criticize Biden for his remarks about Netanyahu but said he supports the prime minister and Israeli democracy.
  • "Free societies have vigorous and open debate. Israel is no exception ... now is an important time for Americans to stand together in support of our long, mutually respectful, and important friendship with Israel," McCarthy said.

State of play: Protests across Israel have continued, despite Netanyahu's decision to suspend the legislation. More than 250,000 Israelis protested in cities across the country on Saturday, including in Tel Aviv.

  • Negotiations between the coalition and the opposition continued this week at the president’s residence. No significant progress has been announced.
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