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Lawmakers ask House leadership to invite Netanyahu to speak

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WASHINGTON (JTA) — Close to 100 members of the U.S. House of Representatives asked the leadership to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak when he visits next month.

“Due to widespread instability and turmoil in the Middle East, it is critically important to foster and enhance the U.S.-Israel relationship at this time,” said the letter sent Feb. 12 to House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and released Tuesday by its initiators, Reps. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) and Brad Sherman (D-Calif.).

“Given the importance of our relationship with Israel, we ask you to invite Prime Minister Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress,” it says. “Doing so would send a clear message of U.S. support to Israel.”

There were 96 signatories — 79 Republicans and 17 Democrats.

The last time Netanyahu addressed a joint meeting of Congress, in May 2011, it was seen as a bid to bolster U.S. support for his positions during a period of tensions with President Barack Obama over peace talks with the Palestinians.

Such tensions are resurfacing now over plans by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to introduce in the next few weeks a framework agreement for a final-status Israeli-Palestinian deal and over U.S. involvement in a sanctions-for-nuclear-rollback deal with Iran.

Netanyahu is due in Washington the first week of March to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference and to meet with Obama.

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