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Bipartisan congressional delegation will travel to Israel ahead of Netanyahu address to Congress

U.S. Capitol
U.S. Capitol

By Katrina Samaan and Michelle Shen, CNN

(CNN) — Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer will lead a bipartisan congressional delegation to Israel this week, a notable show of support as a sizable number of Democrats say they are considering boycotting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress next month.

Nine House members will participate in meetings with Israeli leaders with the goal of securing updates on the state of the war in Gaza, as well as the humanitarian situation there, according to a statement from Hoyer’s office. The congressional delegation will also discuss the ongoing efforts to secure a temporary ceasefire and the release of the remaining hostages held in Gaza by Hamas.

“I look forward to strengthening our vital US-Israel relationship even further during my first visit to Israel since the terror and devastation of October 7,” Hoyer said in a news release. “Both on this delegation and upon our return, we will continue working to maintain the strong, longstanding bipartisan consensus in Congress to support our ally, Israel.”

Netanyahu’s speech on July 24 will arrive at a time when his relationship with President Joe Biden has become strained over Israel’s war plans and efforts to alleviate humanitarian suffering in Gaza. While Congress passed a bill with aid to Ukraine and Israel in April, Democrats remain divided over Israel’s handling of its war against Hamas.

It’s not clear whether the prime minister’s visit to Washington will include a meeting at the White House. Netanyahu has yet to publicly endorse a peace proposal laid out by Biden, and the US has grown frustrated by some of Israel’s war tactics, which officials believe do not include stringent enough protections for civilians.

CNN has spoken to dozens of Democratic lawmakers who have said they are considering boycotting Netanyahu’s speech, with several already publicly announcing their plans to not attend. In 2015, at the height of tensions between Netanyahu and then-President Barack Obama, nearly 60 Democrats across both chambers did not attend a speech by the Israeli prime minister to a joint session of Congress.

“If he wants to come to speak to members of Congress about how to end the war and release hostages, I would be fine doing that,” Rep. Ro Khanna of California said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “But I’m not going to sit in a one-way lecture.”

He joins Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Jim Clyburn, who have also said they won’t attend Netanyahu’s address.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat who called for new elections in Israel earlier this year, acknowledged in a statement that he had “clear and profound disagreements” with Netanyahu, but he has defended his decision to sign on to the letter inviting the Israeli leader.

“Because America’s relationship with Israel is ironclad and transcends one person or prime minister, I joined the request for him to speak,” he said earlier this month.

CNN’s Haley Talbot contributed to this report.

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