Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) speaks as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) listens during a press conference on April 14, 2020 in New York City.

(Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images)

As Boycott Grows, Ocasio-Cortez Says Netanyahu Invitation 'Should Be Revoked'

"This man should not be addressing Congress," said the New York Democrat. "He is a war criminal."

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said late Tuesday that Democratic and Republican leaders should withdraw their invitation for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak at a joint meeting of Congress next month after he released a video attacking the Biden administration for "withholding" weapons from Israel's military.

"This man should not be addressing Congress. He is a war criminal," Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) wrote on social media. "And he certainly has no regard for U.S. law, which is explicitly designed to prevent U.S. weapons from facilitating human rights abuses."

"His invitation should be revoked," she added. "It should've never been sent in the first place."

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) formally invited Netanyahu to address a joint meeting last month, roughly two weeks after the Biden administration all but acknowledged what leading human rights organizations had been saying for months: that Israeli forces have used American weaponry to commit war crimes in the Gaza Strip.

The invitation also came roughly two months after Schumer criticized Netanyahu in a speech on the Senate floor, accusing the prime minister of being "too willing to tolerate the civilian toll in Gaza" and calling for new leadership in Israel.

"The United States needs to be using its leverage, including restrictions on arms sales, as a way to advance a push toward peace in the Middle East."

Netanyahu, who is scheduled to address Congress on July 24 as he faces a possible arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court, said in his video remarks Tuesday that the Biden administration "has been withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel" over "the past few months." The Israeli prime minister was apparently referring to the administration's decision last month to pause a shipment that includes 2,000-pound bombs.

But the administration is still moving ahead with other weapons deals with Israel, including an $18 billion sale of F-15 fighter jets and Joint Direct Attack Munition kits that the Israeli military has used against civilians in Gaza.

Ocasio-Cortez's call for the cancellation of Netanyahu's scheduled address came as the number of Democrats planning to boycott the Israeli prime minister's speech continued to grow, with Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) recently announcing their decisions to skip the joint meeting.

"Benjamin Netanyahu has created a humanitarian disaster," Warren toldThe Hill on Tuesday. "The United States needs to be using its leverage, including restrictions on arms sales, as a way to advance a push toward peace in the Middle East."

"We need a cease-fire, massive humanitarian relief, the return of the hostages, and we've gotta have a breakthrough on getting the parties to the negotiating table," the senator added. "Giving more arms to Israel is not pushing in the right direction."

In addition to vowing to boycott Netanyahu's scheduled speech, some congressional Democrats are reportedly discussing "counter-programming" plans "focused on peace, bringing the hostages home, and ending this horrible conflict," Axiosreported last week, citing an unnamed House Democrat.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is among the lawmakers pledging to boycott the Israeli prime minister's speech, said Tuesday that "it is absurd that Netanyahu has been invited to address Congress."

"We should not be honoring people who use the starvation of children as a weapon of war," said Sanders.

In an email sent out on Wednesday, the progressive group Justice Democrats urged its supporters to demand that their elected representatives either boycott or disrupt Netanyahu's July 24 address, noting that the Israeli prime minister and his government "are still actively carrying out what historian Robert Pape has called 'one of the most intense civilian punishment campaigns in history.'"

"We need our leaders in Washington to stop using our taxpayer dollars to send billions in weapons and bombs to Israel, and demand a permanent cease-fire and the release of all hostages—not roll out the red carpet for Netanyahu," the group added.

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